The Canadian Football Association has suspended a provincial association over its refusal to let turban-wearing children play, announcing the Quebec FA will be suspended until the ban is overturned.
The national body took a more aggressive stance Monday in the ongoing controversy surrounding the Quebec Soccer Federation's decision to restrict turban-wearing Sikhs from the pitch, after its earlier efforts had failed to resolve the matter.
‘Inaction forced measures’
“The Quebec Soccer Federation's inaction has forced us to take measures in order to ensure soccer remains accessible to the largest number of Canadians,” it said in a statement on Monday.
The national organization said last week it expected the Quebec association to reverse the ban, which has drawn international news coverage, condemnation from several national politicians and became a test of how multi-cultural the sport would be in Quebec.
Canadian Soccer News said it could result in Quebec all-star teams being banned from play outside the province, and even the cancellation of games within Quebec that involve a nationally certified referee.
‘Quebec chose not to follow rules’
“Unfortunately, that means soccer players are being punished for something that the Quebec Soccer Federation should have corrected right away,” said Dr. Sanjeet Singh Saluja, a former coach who publicly denounced the ban as having no medical justification.
“I'm sad to see it happen and I'm sad to see that it went this far but unfortunately the Quebec Soccer Federation, they chose not to follow the rules.”
The Quebec federation had said they were concerned about safety and pointed out that the rules of the world governing body, FIFA, do not specifically allow turbans. Critics of the Quebec decision point out that FIFA's rules do not explicitly ban turbans.
‘Play in your backyard’ policy
Director General of Brigitte Frot had said that, “They can play in their backyard, but not with official referees, not in the official rules of soccer. They have no choice.”
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney tweeted his approval: “Good to see CDN Soccer Association take action against the Quebec Soccer Federation over its ridiculous turban ban.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau echoed the sentiment, “Barring kids from playing soccer because they wear a turban is wrong. The CSA is right to suspend the QSF.”
The CSA reports directly to the FIFA world body and is responsible for granting or revoking the membership of provincial federations.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada has expressed its sadness over the decision to suspend the Quebec Soccer Federation, and has again urged the QSF to immediately lift its turban ban.
‘All children now victims of Quebec decision’
“Whereas Sikh children were initially the victims of the QSF's decision to uphold the ban on the turban, it is now doubly unfortunate that so many other soccer players in Quebec will also have to suffer the consequences,” said WSO President Prem Singh Vinning in a statement issued late Monday.
Vinning said the entire episode has been completely unnecessary and senseless, and the QSF should lift the turban ban for the sake of all soccer players in Quebec.