Feds to Quebec soccer officials: Let the children with turbans play

A decision to ban turban-wearing Sikh kids from Quebec soccer fields is being condemned by the federal government.

Federal ministers weighed in today on a provincial sports-association decision that has attracted some international media coverage.

They criticized the Quebec Soccer Federation’s decision to uphold the ban and called for the association to let turban-wearing kids play.

The federation is standing pat on the decision and dismisses criticism that it is racist. It says the move is based on concern for player safety.

What the ruling has meant is that as many as 200 Sikh soccer players are on the sidelines because the federation refuses to allow them on the field with turbans, patkas and keskis — the religious headgear worn by Sikh men and boys.

The move ignores a non-binding directive from the Canadian Soccer Association, which has called for provincial associations to allow turbans by extending an existing rule that allows Islamic hijabs for girls.

The federal reaction today is far more vigorous than it was under comparable circumstances a few years ago. When a Quebec taekwondo meet expelled Muslim girls with hijabs in 2007, the federal Conservatives went out of their way to avoid commenting.