MONTREAL – The Quebec Soccer Federation says if Sikh kids want to play soccer while wearing a turban there’s an easy solution: they can play in their own yard.
The federation held a teleconference today to explain its weekend decision to uphold a ban on turbans that is unique in the country.
Brigitte Frot, the director general of the provincial association, says the reason to maintain the ban is for player safety reasons.
When asked how many injuries, however, have been linked to turbans she said there are none.
She says the group is simply taking its cues from FIFA, soccer’s international governing body which does not explicitly state that such headwear is allowed. She says that if people want to change the policy they should contact FIFA.
Quebec referees began cracking down on turbans, patkas and keskis — the religious headgear worn by Sikh men and boys — in the last year.
The weekend decision to uphold the ban was upheld despite a directive from the Canadian Soccer Association in April calling for provincial associations to allow them.
Quebec is the only province that has balked at allowing turbans on the pitch and an estimated 100 to 200 children are left unable to play as a result.
An association representing Sikhs says they’ll look at all options after being unsuccessful in coming to compromise.
They haven’t ruled out a legal challenge.
The dispute has germinated in the emotional hothouse of Quebec’s identity debates.
The issue of accommodating minorities was catapulted onto the political stage in 2007, when tabloid media carried sensational news reports about examples of religious minorities imposing their views on others.
One famous example was when a group of Muslims visiting a Quebec sugar shack managed to get traditional pea soup with the pork removed.
The issue wound up being the subject of a provincial commission under the Liberals. More recently, it has been taken up with greater enthusiasm by the governing Parti Quebecois.
The government now promises to bring in a new charter of Quebec values — with a paramount value being secularism.
However, the government has signalled that its proposed secularism policy will not apply to all religions equally.
Muslim and Sikh headscarves, for instance, will likely be banned from public institutions under the proposed policy — while, on the other hand, the large Christian cross hanging over the Quebec legislature will get to stay.