World Sikh Organization helps student barred from wearing kirpan at Law School Admission Test

Ishwer Singh Basra
Ishwer Singh Basra

THE World Sikh Organization of Canada has successfully assisted a Sikh student barred from wearing his kirpan into the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

Ishwer Singh Basra, an amritdhari (initiated) Sikh, was scheduled to write the LSAT on September 27, 2014.  Upon arriving at the test centre in Burnaby, Ishwer Singh’s kirpan was spotted by a proctor.  Despite being explained its significance, the proctor said the kirpan would not be permitted in the test centre.

The proctor then proceeded to call the Law Society Admission Council (LSAC), the body that administers the LSAT, and said that there was a student carrying a “knife” and insisting it was for religious purposes.  After a brief phone call, the proctor reiterated to Basra that his “knife” would not be allowed.

Basra was given the option of either removing the kirpan and being allowed to write the test or forfeiting the exam and writing another day in which he would once again be told to remove his kirpan.

Basra decided to call his wife and have her take his kirpan.  After briefly stepping out of the room to hand over his kirpan, he was told to once again ‘check-in’ to the exam.

At the end of the exam, Basra was given a “Violation Slip” which read, “Student was in possession of small pocket knife for religious reasons. Sikhism. Called LSAC was approved to discard of item and was readmitted student called spouse to come to retrieve item.”

The Violation Slip was placed in his LSAC file.

Basra contacted the WSO about this incident and requested assistance. The WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh quickly initiated a dialogue with LSAC, which admitted that the kirpan had wrongly been barred from the test centre and offered an apology to Basra.

The Violation Notice that was placed in his LSAC file has been removed and Basra was also given the opportunity by LSAC to include a note that would accompany his law school applications explaining the incident that took place and how it affected his performance in the test.

LSAC has assured WSO that in the future LSAC staff will be instructed to allow Sikhs to wear the kirpan.  WSO also provided an informational document on the kirpan to LSAC that can be shared with staff.

WSO BC Vice President Jasbir Kaur Randhawa said, “It’s somewhat ironic that a Sikh was told he couldn’t wear his kirpan to the Law School Admission Test, when it is in fact Canadian law that explicitly protects the wearing of the kirpan.  We are glad that the situation was quickly resolved but it is surprising that an incident like this took place in the first place.”

Basra said, “This incident was unfortunate. I have never experienced this degree of unprofessionalism.  But despite my humiliation, this was a great opportunity to create awareness, acceptance and unity. I would like to extend my appreciation and gratitude to Balpreet Singh and the World Sikh Organization of Canada for their support and confidence throughout.”

If you or someone you know has faced discrimination due to their faith, contact the WSO and they will be pleased to assist you, free of charge.