1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 174

Thursday, June 13, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Quebec Soccer Federation

Banning of Turban

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to deplore the decision by the Quebec Soccer Federation to prohibit Sikh players from wearing turbans. I strongly agree with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau who said:

Barring kids from playing soccer because they wear a turban is wrong. The CSA is right to suspend the QSF.

Honourable senators, the turban is an integral part of the Sikh faith. It is considered an article of faith. The head is covered by both men and women. It is not an optional part of Sikh dress. The Code of Sikh Conduct and Conventions makes wearing a turban mandatory for Sikh men. The turban represents spiritualty.

In many societies, it is considered important for women to demonstrate modesty and respect by covering their hair. In the Sikh faith, it is equally important for both men and women to demonstrate modesty and respect before God in the same way — by covering their hair. The turban reflects, in many ways, the equality between women and men in the Sikh faith.

Honourable senators, freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 27 constitutionally enshrines the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

Honourable senators, I want to celebrate soccer coach Ihab Leheta and his team from Brossard, Quebec. The coach told the Montreal Gazette:

“I asked [my team] what was more important than this game… One said school, another said family, and then someone said injustice.”

The Montreal Gazette reports:

Although there are no Sikh boys among the 18 team members, age 14 and under, Leheta asked them what they would do had one of them been excluded because of a turban….

With the enthusiastic support of his players and their parents, the coach headed off to the Sikh temple in LaSalle the next morning before the big match and borrowed 20 orange scarfs that the boys then donned as turbans at their game in Brossard….

“I was so proud of them,” Leheta said. (They understood) that today it’s Sikhs (being banned) and tomorrow it’ll be someone else.”

Honourable senators, meanwhile, Aneel Samra, an 18-year-old Sikh soccer player, is not able to play soccer because of the Quebec Soccer League’s decision.

Forty years ago, when I was beginning my career as a lawyer, I fought alongside many others to secure the rights of religious minority groups in Canada. That fight continues today, honourable senators. Wearing a turban is not a choice. It is a mandatory article of faith, an expression of identity. For Aneel Samra and other Sikh men and boys, it is who they are.

I hope that honourable senators will join me in calling for the Quebec Soccer Federation to rescind its ban and to allow all Quebecers to participate in this truly global game.