The Calgary Kirpan Incident

A concert by Punjabi-singing star Gurdas Maan was shut down mid-performance at the Calgary Telus Convention Center in Alberta Aug. 2, and the promoter has threatened to sue the venue because of it.

Nirmal Dhaliwal claims CTCC security overreacted to Sikh patrons who wanted to enter the building wearing kirpans, ceremonial daggers that have been the centerpiece of security-versus-religious freedom debates in the past.

Dhaliwal told the Calgary Herald that emotions ran high at the doors when his estimate of about 10 patrons – mostly older men with families – were denied entrance. However, he claimed there was no reason to stop the performance at about 9:30 p.m.

“They had no right to pull the plug on the show when [the crowd] inside the hall wasn’t a problem,” Dhaliwal told the paper.

Dhaliwal said he explained to convention officials the kirpan isn’t considered a weapon but they were “stubborn” and wouldn’t listen.

“I do shows everywhere – I’ve never had an issue,” he said, noting a recent show at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum included patrons wearing kirpans. “It’s going to be a very big legal battle with the Telus Convention Center very soon.”

Maan performed a makeup show the next afternoon outdoors at the city’s Prairie Winds Park.

The CTCC issued a statement that evening, apologizing for the difficult decision and noting the venue canceled the event before Maan took the stage. It also stressed this should not have been a surprise to the promoter.

“All conveners who hold concerts at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre are made aware of security policies at the time of booking, and during follow up meetings prior to the event,” arena spokeswoman Heather Lundy said. “At the same time, conveners are also asked to advise of any cultural or religious matters which need to be addressed.”