Home Canadian Soccer The Association As Canada defends against charges of racism, Quebec flouts turban policy

As Canada defends against charges of racism, Quebec flouts turban policy


On Monday, Canadian-American forward Sydney Leroux tweeted and accused Canadian fans of using racial slurs against her. It was later clarified that she wasn’t talking about Sunday’s emotionally-charged women’s friendly at BMO Field between Canada and the United States, but the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver.

The U.S. Soccer Federation made no complaint in 2012, so Leroux’s accusations of racism in Canada should blow over. Or, should have blown over. But, just hours before Leroux’s tweet, the Quebec Soccer Federation voted to ignore a Canadian Soccer Association directive, which asks its provincial members to allow Sikh headgear on the pitches.

That directive was issued to force Quebec’s hand, as the provincial organization continued to ban turbans, even though they’re allowed in other parts of the country.

So, it’s hard for Canadians to be indignant about racism claims when our second-largest province makes a high-profile decision that makes headlines around the world. Seriously, you Google “turban” and “soccer” and you’ll find pages and pages of links to stories about the Quebec turban ban.

Awesome, in a way that a car crash is awesome.

On Sunday, a day when we were supposed to be celebrating equality in soccer, with a women’s game getting more hype than any men’s game in recent memory, Quebec’s soccer body decided to renew a policy which excludes a segment of the population from playing organized soccer.

Yup, no racists here!

What makes the Quebec decision so, well, infuriating is that the administrators there managed to turn what had become a non-issue in Canada into a hot potato. The other, ahem, Big Four soccer associations, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, have no issues with players wearing religious headgear.

“Even prior to the recent CSA position, turbans were allowed in Alberta going back more years than I know,” Alberta Soccer Association executive director Richard Adams said Tuesday.

As an Albertan (OK, an Ontarian who has moved to Alberta), it’s in my nature to be highly suspicious of big government and centralization. But in the case of Quebec and the turban ban, it’s time for the Canadian Soccer Association to flex its muscles. Its policies allow for turbans, and it’s time to rein in what is a rogue organization.

It’s true that it’s not in the CSA’s mandate to force provincial associations to change their ways. Provincial associations look after their own internal affairs. But the CSA does administer national tournaments. It’s this simple. If Quebec chooses to ban certain segments of the population from playing soccer because of religious beliefs, maybe Quebec teams shouldn’t be invited to nationals until their provincial association understand that banning people based on faith isn’t a safety issue, it’s a bigotry issue.

The majority of Quebecers, the kids who play organized soccer, would unfortunately be affected. But that’s how sanctions work; they force people to understand that they are partially or wholly responsible for the government they choose. Want to get back in? Demand change.

It would also be reassuring — and a source of positive pressure — for the Montreal Impact issue a statement in support of the CSA directive. When pro clubs talk, people listen.

Quebec has used FIFA’s decision not to have a stance on religious headgear as an excuse. Because FIFA doesn’t have a position, Quebec’s soccer body claims its OK for it to take the anti-turban stance. If FIFA endorses turbans, the Quebec federation promises to follow.

What a load. Really. The Canadian Soccer Association already has a directive in place (the one that Adams mentioned earlier) to ensure Sikh kids can play. That directive was issued last April, and was aimed directly at Quebec. That’s because the other associations in the country accommodate the turban. As you can tell by what Adams said, in Alberta — like the other jurisdictions — this really was a non-issue.

When the CSA issued the directive, World Sikh Organization President Prem Singh Vinning said, “The accommodation of the turban already takes place not just across Canada but across the world. There is no reason why the turban can’t be accommodated. We’re glad the CSA has clarified the issue for referees and has hopefully resolved this matter for good.”

Famous last words, Mr. Vinning. Because Quebec has decided instead to thumb its nose at the Canadian Soccer Association.

In 2006, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley soccer association apologized for not allowing a teen to play in a patka. (CLICK HERE) Later, the state came up with a set of referee’s guidelines for players who wear religious headgear. There was a recognition of two things — albeit, after a legal battle — that, yes, it’s just darn wrong to ban anyone from playing soccer because of religious beliefs, and that you can deal with the safety question over headgear in the rulebook.

You want to push the argument of “safety concerns?” OK, then, put something in the rulebook or in the guidelines, like Pennsylvania did. In Alberta, the policy is that the referee can determine if any accessory is unsafe. But, the association confirmed that “we have never had a case where a referee has determined a turban, patka or keski to be unsafe.”

If a young Sikh boy or girl dreams of one day playing for the national team, or in MLS, or in NWSL, their headgear shouldn’t be cause for quashing their dreams. Nor should it be a deterrent to a child who simply wants to be on a team with his friends.

We are better than this.

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  1. Paul

    June 7, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    “They’re not being banned for that, it’s a ridiculous and hysterical claim. They’re not allowed to play if they don’t follow the same safety rules everyone else follows.”

    The ridiculous and hysterical claim is that wearing turbans is a safety issue. The rest of Canada and the world does not see it as a safety issue, so I don’t know what you think you’re talking about when you mention “the same safety rules as everyone else”.

  2. Paul

    June 7, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    @Michel Hein
    In one breath you say “all links … are to English Canadian newspapers ranting on the subject”, and then in the next sentence you contradict yourself by stating that there are at least two foreign articles on the subject.
    It’s true that English Canadians probably feel more strongly about it than the rest of the world; that could have something to do with the fact that French Canadians have defended their culture so vehemently in the past (e.g. Bill 101? Yes, most of us still think it’s ridiculous that francophones think it’s okay to legislate that all signs in Quebec must use French exclusively while at the same time all other signs in Canada must be bilingual), and yet are hypocritically intolerant of other groups’ desires to preserve their own culture or religion.

  3. Bob Smith

    June 7, 2013 at 3:05 am

    Do we not have freedom of religion, and is not judging someone from their color and religion, isn’t that racism. Here’s the definition of racism: A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others. You see where it says “cultural,” wearing a turban is cultural and common thing in places around the world. So judging someone of that would be considered racist. I’m white, I accept all the colours of people into my life, growing up I had many people with turbans in my soccer league. So why can’t you? Accept these little things and move on cause the fact is that LIFE’S TOO SHORT, let people live the type of lives they wanna live. Who are you to say NO?????

  4. Michel Hein

    June 6, 2013 at 11:32 am

    When you Google turban and soccer, you will find pages and pages of links to stories about the Quebec turban ban, all of them to English Canadian newspapers ranting on the subject. The only two foreign articles I have found were in the Washington Post and on the BBC and they did not have the slander (not to say the dehumanization) found in the English Canadian ones. In my opinion, the real story is English Canada’s attitude.

  5. Renzie

    June 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Yea and while we are at it lets ban those head bands that players wear or the elastics that many feamle players wear to keep their hair in a pony tail. You never know when one of those things might suddenly break and take out someones eye? Come on foks this is a silly ruling and should be dismissed as such. Leave the Bronze age crap out of it. There is no safety issue. Let players play.

  6. Seathanaich

    June 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    LeRoux is using racism accusations to distract from her betrayal of her country and her shameful disrespecting of it in Toronto. In the process, she pretends she is a victim. Nothing she says or does should be taken seriously.

    As to turbans, if you want to play a sport, take it off. If it’s that important to keep it on, then obviously playing soccer can’t be that important to you. The point of not wearing necklaces, scarves, and fabric wrapped around your head is a safety issue. If that is less important to you than religious nonsense from the Bronze Age, then stay in the Bronze Age. The next generation will move on, leaving you behind.

    • Seathanaich

      June 4, 2013 at 7:20 pm

      I should add:

      “If Quebec chooses to ban certain segments of the population from playing soccer because of religious beliefs”

      They’re not being banned for that, it’s a ridiculous and hysterical claim. They’re not allowed to play if they don’t follow the same safety rules everyone else follows.

      “their headgear shouldn’t be cause for quashing their dreams”

      No, it shouldn’t, and neither should be insisting on wearing a sword or a chain around your neck. So, simply, take these things off if you’re playing a field sport.

      • Bob Smith

        June 6, 2013 at 1:54 am

        Yea cause u know it’s a ‘Safety Issue,’ like a baseball cap is a safety issue in public, the generations might move on but some people will always be NARROW MINDED like the comments above. We live in a nice diverse country, let people live their way, a turban is only an issue to racists and nobody else. FIFA also looks to uphold the ban in March 2014.

        • Seathanaich

          June 6, 2013 at 4:34 pm

          It’s not a race, it’s a religion, but it’s easier to name call if you pretend that “Sikh” is a race, isn’t it?

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