MONTREAL — The Quebec Soccer Federation insists that its ban on turbans is tied to player safety, although it has produced no evidence to support the claim.
The federation held a conference call Monday to explain its weekend decision to uphold the ban. Quebec is the only province in Canada that has balked at allowing turbans on the field. As a result, about 100 to 200 youngsters are unable to play.
Brigitte Frot, the director general of the provincial association, says the reason to maintain the ban is for player safety. But when asked how many injuries have been linked to turbans she said there are none.
She says the group is taking its cues from soccer's international governing body, which does not explicitly state that such headwear is allowed. She says if people want to change the policy they should contact FIFA.
Quebec referees began cracking down on turbans, patkas and keskis — the religious headgear worn by Sikh men and boys — in the last year.
The decision to uphold the ban came despite a directive from the Canadian Soccer Association in April calling for provincial associations to allow them.
An association representing Sikhs says it tried to reach a compromise but will now consider all options, including a legal challenge.
Identity disputes are nothing new to Quebec. The issue of accommodating minorities was catapulted onto the political stage in 2007, when tabloid media carried sensational reports of religious minorities imposing their views on others.
The government promises to bring in a new charter of Quebec values, with a paramount value accorded to secularism. The government, however, has signaled that its proposed secularism policy will not apply to all religions equally.
Muslim and Sikh headscarves, for instance, will likely be banned from public institutions under the proposed policy. On the other hand, the large Christian cross hanging over the Quebec legislature will get to stay.