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Premier Marois sides with Quebec Soccer Federation on turban ban

06/11/2013 05:12 EDT | Updated 08/11/2013 05:12 EDT
Premier Pauline Marois says she supports the Quebec Soccer Federation's decision to ban turbans on the field.

She says she finds the Canadian Soccer Association's decision to suspend the Quebec Federation for the turban ban "unacceptable."

"I believe that the Quebec federation had the right to establish their own regulations," she said. "They are autonomous and they are not liable to the Canadian federation."

After initially being silent on the issue, members of the Parti Québécois, the province's ruling pro-sovereignty party, have now publicly spoken out against the decision to suspend the Quebec Soccer Federation from the national association until it lifts its ban on players wearing turbans.

"I really wish the Canadian association would leave us alone and let us make our decisions because it is the young people who may suffer in the short term," said Marie Malavoy, Quebec's minister of education, recreation and sports.

Amir Khadir, spokesman for the Québec Solidaire party, says although he does not support the turban ban, the decision to suspend the Quebec federation is further penalizing young people who want to play sports.

"This situation is a mess due to the fact that our politicians haven't taken the responsibility," he said. "We need a balanced approach that takes into consideration the needs of government and religion."

The Quebec Liberal Party is criticizing the PQ government for refusing to consent to a motion calling for dialogue between the soccer federations.

Liberal house leader Jean-Marc Fournier says he believes the Quebec Soccer Federation acted "in good faith" by banning players from wearing turbans, though he disagrees with the decision that prevents many Sikhs from participating.

"I respect the Quebec Federation as I respect the Canadian Federation, but I am not of the same point of view. I think everyone should play," he said.

Federal Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau's response was less subtle when he weighed in on Twitter.

"Barring kids from playing soccer because they wear a turban is wrong. The CSA is right to suspend the #QSF," he wrote.

The Quebec Soccer Federation cites safety concerns for banning turbans, and points out that the world governing body, FIFA, doesn’t specifically allow turbans.

The Quebec organization initially said it would only change its stance if ordered directly by FIFA. The international federation replied by saying that it would defer the decision to the national governing body — the Canadian Soccer Association.

The Quebec Soccer Federation is holding a special closed-door meeting tonight where its members will discuss its controversial decision to ban turbans on the soccer field.

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