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Montreal city council to debate soccer turban ban

06/05/2013 11:11 EDT | Updated 08/05/2013 05:12 EDT
It's the City of Montreal's turn to debate the Quebec Soccer Federation's decision banning Sikhs from wearing turbans on the soccer field, as the political fallout from the controversy widens.

Councillor Marvin Rotrand tweeted late Wednesday that he will present an emergency motion demanding the federation reverse its decision at council's June 17 meeting.

The mayor of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, Anie Samson, and Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grace councillor Lionel Perez have both offered to support the motion.

The federation's announcement was the subject of debate earlier this week during Question Period in the House of Commons.

"We believe that amateur sports like soccer should encourage the participation of children rather than exclude them," said Bal Gosal, the minister of state for sport. "We see no valid reason why kids should be banned from playing soccer because of their religion."

Quebec federation alone in Canada

Quebec's federation is the only one across Canada to ban turbans and the headwear younger Sikh boys often wear, keskis and patkas.

The Canadian Soccer Association has called for provincial federations to allow religious headcoverings "as long as it doesn't pose any danger to the player wearing it or any other player."

The Liberal MNA for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Kathleen Weil, urged the federation to be more flexible.

"People have to stop finding refuge in rules and just think about the issue at hand, to think about what's best for people," Weil said. "Families are asking for the right for their children to play soccer."

Members of Quebec's Parti Québécois government have been largely silent on the issue. In a statement, the government said simply that it trusts the Quebec Soccer federation to make its own decisions

Aneel Samra, a Lasalle borough resident who has opted not to sign up for soccer rather than remove his turban, challenged the federation to test the safety of turbans if that is its real concern.

"I wish that I could have at least a sit-down discussion with them," Samra said. "If we could do that, hopefully I could sway their opinion…It's 200 kids that are affected, but we could all go in for testing."

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