Via Rail on a better track

    OTTAWA, April 26 /CNW Telbec/ - The World Sikh Organization is pleased
with VIA Rail's agreement to finally permit devout Sikh passengers to travel
while keeping their articles of faith intact. The changes in policy made by
VIA Rail and instituted on January 12, 2007, recognize the significance of the
Sikh code of conduct mandated for all practicing Sikhs.
    WSO President Gurpreet Singh Bal today expressed respect and admiration
for Balpreet Singh, a 26 year old Ottawa law student who was removed from two
VIA trains in 2005: "We offer Balpreet our heartiest congratulations for his
perseverance to ensure that all Canadians are afforded the same protection to
freely practice their faith. His calm, dignified, purposeful citizenship is an
example to us all. Balpreet's success will be felt by all people of faith."
    All initiated (Amritdhari) Sikhs are required, by religious mandate, to
maintain five articles of faith upon their person at all times, as part of a
disciplined lifestyle of devoted religious practice. The kirpan, as one of the
5 articles of faith, represents spiritual power. It reminds the wearer of
her/his mortality, and the corresponding obligation to always stand up against
injustice. A Sikh is prohibited from using the kirpan in any aggressive
manner. "Sikhs honour a specific code of conduct because our purpose is to
serve humanity. Our visibly distinctive attire is one way the public can
easily identify someone who values peace, justice, and security. It is
extremely important for Canadians, in today's fearful world environment, to
recognize a kindred spirit when they see a Sikh," said Ajit Singh Sahota,
Director of Administration.
    The WSO is pleased that both VIA Rail and Balpreet Singh worked together
to resolve this issue. "Perhaps this will inspire more corporations, public
and private, to review their own practices, and become proactive in their
approach to accommodating Canadian customers of diverse religious backgrounds.
By engaging in a constructive dialogue with communities who are negatively
affected by arbitrary safety and security policies, we can prevent future
misunderstandings, and work cooperatively to achieve the same goals." Said
Anne Lowthian, Executive Director.

For further information:

For further information: Anne Lowthian, Executive Director, World Sikh
Organization of Canada, (613) 521-1984, cell: (613) 220-6214,, website:

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