Thirty years ago, he became the first Mountie to wear a turban. Here’s why he still worries about hate ‘in the shadows’

Good reminder of Canada coming to terms with a more open society and identities, even as the RCMP continues to face challenges in recruitment of women and visible minorities (Indigenous peoples are above their population share and labour market availability):

During a visit to Calgary in late 2019, Baltej Dhillon couldn’t resist paying a visit to Shoulder to Shoulder Militaria & Collectibles after his son-in-law told him what he’d spotted inside.

Behind a glass display case were a bunch of pins that had been produced three decades earlier, when Dhillon was caught up in a fierce national debate over whether the RCMP should allow Sikh officers — like him — to wear turbans on duty.

One pin showed an image of a turban-wearing Mountie with a cross through it and the label: “Keep the RCMP Canadian.”

Another pin showed a turban-wearing Mountie riding a camel. It was labelled: “Canada’s New Musical Ride.”

Stunned to see these “symbols of hate” still in circulation, Dhillon snatched up about $50 worth of the pins. When he went to pay for them, he says, he could sense a tinge of embarrassment from the store’s merchant.

“I am grateful to live in a country where expression is part of our freedom,” he told the Star.

“Propagating hate, however, is not.”

This month marks the 30th anniversary of when Dhillon graduated from the RCMP training academy and made history as the first Mountie to be permitted to wear a turban while on the job. Through a 2021 lens, some will find it jarring to think that such a simple thing could be a source of controversy, but the uniform policy change sparked heated discussion over the meaning of Canadian identity, as well as petitions and court challenges seeking to preserve traditional elements of the Mounties’ garb, such as the Stetson hat.

While Dhillon, of Surrey, B.C., says there’s no question attitudes have evolved over the past three decades, there remains much that has not. The Star discovered as much, recently, when it spoke to some of the people who fought against his right to wear the turban while in uniform three decades ago.

For his part, Dhillon said the continued circulation of the pins, the relatively recent debate over whether people should be allowed to wear face coverings during citizenship ceremonies and Quebec’s ban on government workers wearing religious symbols all show there’s still a lot of work to be done in “finding kindness and compassion in how we interact with each other.”

“We need to continue to be vigilant because that hatred is just in the shadows.”


In 1988, Dhillon was in his early 20s and figuring out what he wanted to do with his life.

His part-time work as an RCMP jail guard led him to apply to become a Mountie. He passed the initial application process but didn’t proceed further because he wasn’t willing to conform with the RCMP’s uniform policy, which required him to remove his turban, something he’d been wearing since he was 12.

“I’m not able to do that and cannot do that because of my commitment to my way of life and my articles of faith,” he says he told his recruiter.

Having been born and raised in Malaysia, where it was commonplace to see Sikh officers in law enforcement and armed forces, Dhillon says he had no inkling of the “great national debate” about to unfold.

In spring 1989, then-RCMP commissioner Norm Inkster recommended to the federal government a change in dress regulations to allow Mounties to wear turbans as part of their uniforms.

It sparked an outcry.

Three Calgary sisters from an RCMP family — Kay Mansbridge, Dot Miles and Gen Kantelberg — launched a petition calling for the preservation of the “distinctive heritage and tradition of the RCMP.”

“I don’t think we can give up our heritage just to pacify one religious group,” Mansbridge told the Calgary Herald at the time, adding that “chaos” would result when other minority groups demanded the right to wear their cultural garb.

The sisters insisted their petition — which gathered more than 200,000 signatures — was not fuelled by racism.

“I have friends who are East Indian,” Mansbridge told the Ottawa Citizen. “I even looked after their children.”

Meanwhile, some business owners saw potential to make money out of the controversy.

Herman Bittner of Langdon, Alta., produced a calendar containing a portrait of himself wearing a red serge, a turban and dark makeup on his face. He is identified as “Sgt. Kamell Dung” alongside the caption: “Is this Canadian, or does this make you Sikh?”

“I’m doing a job the politicians should be doing — they’re supposed to be representing the views of the majority,” he told The Canadian Press.

Two Calgary business owners — Bill Hipson and Peter Kouda — reportedly started mass producing pins that also mocked turban-wearing Mounties.

One of Kouda’s pins ended up in the collection of the Galt Museum & Archives in Lethbridge. According to the museum’s website, it depicts a Caucasian man surrounded by three visible minorities with the caption: “Who is the minority in Canada?”

As the controversy grew and respectful debate turned hateful, Dhillon said he could no longer remain the “quiet candidate.”

“I quickly realized there was a lot of ignorance and a lot of misinformation around the Sikh faith, the Sikh way of life, and there weren’t many spokespersons within the community that were able to speak to the issue from my perspective. So I took it upon myself to make myself available at that time.”

The debate found its way into the halls of Parliament in Ottawa.

“The RCMP cannot be frozen in time,” NDP MP Jim Karpoff told the House of Commons at the time. “Canada is an evolving multi-ethnic community and the RCMP should fully represent this.”

As part of the same debate, Louise Feltham, a Progressive Conservative MP from Alberta, asked: “If you make an exception for one group of people, where do you stop?”

“Today’s uniform depicts neutrality, impartiality, tradition, history and heritage. ”

But in March 1990, the government under Brian Mulroney announced it was moving forward with the dress code changes and an application form was created for Sikh officers wishing to be exempted from the standard headdress.


Dhillon graduated from the RCMP training academy in May 1991 and began working at the RCMP detachment in Quesnel, B.C.

Community reception at the time was mixed. When he walked into some bars to do sobriety checks, he was greeted as a hero. In others, he was greeted with boos.

“I would take it in stride,” he said. “I would take a bow, wave at them and make my way out. What more can you do?”

Dhillon says his staff sergeant greeted him icily on his first day on the job but when he retired a couple of years later, “He looks at me and says, ‘You’re like a son to me.’”

Meanwhile, a group of retired Mounties from Lethbridge — John Grant, Kenneth Riley and Howard Davis — along with Kay Mansbridge, filed a lawsuit seeking an order prohibiting the RCMP from allowing the wearing of religious symbols and a declaration that the commissioner’s actions were unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs, according to court records, asserted that when a religious symbol is allowed to be part of the RCMP uniform, the appearance of impartiality is undermined.

Outside the courtroom, the plaintiffs used far looser language.

“When they come over here why do they have to change it and make it the same way it is in their homeland?” Grant, one of the plaintiffs told Southam News. “Anybody that looks at it any differently in my opinion should get the hell out of Canada because they’re not good Canadians.”

The defendants argued the change in uniform policy was designed to remove a barrier to the employment of Sikhs in the RCMP and to reflect the multicultural nature of Canada.

In 1994, the Federal Court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding there was no evidence anyone had been deprived of their liberty or security by RCMP members wearing turbans, or had experienced a reasonable apprehension of bias.

The decision was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal. The plaintiffs took the case to Canada’s highest court, which declined to hear it.

Laura Morlock, a lecturer at Ryerson University, spoke extensively with Dhillon for her PhD dissertation on religious diversity and dress at the University of Waterloo.

It’s interesting that when Dhillon started his RCMP career, he was accused of “threatening Canadian identity,” Morlock said. Now, when you do a Google image search of “Canadian multiculturalism,” Dhillon is among the results.

“Dhillon went from being an icon of threat to Canadian identity to becoming an icon of Canadian identity. ”


After taking part in high-profile investigations such as the Air India bombing and the serial killings of Robert Pickton and developing expertise as a polygraph examiner and interviewer, Dhillon retired from the force in 2019 and took on a new role as a staff sergeant with B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, overseeing a program that aims to reduce gun violence.

Prior to his departure, the RCMP relaxed some of its uniform and dress policies, allowing members to wear their hair in a bun, ponytail or braid, to grow out their beards and to display tattoos. They also removed the requirement that members have to seek exemptions to wear faith-based headdresses, including turbans and hijabs, a move welcomed by Dhillon.

“When you give someone an exemption, in essence what you’re saying is you’re not exactly the same as everybody else,” he said.

Another thing he has been heartened by is the number of people who come up to him during his public-speaking engagements who say they were once opposed to the uniform accommodation but have since changed their minds.

“That’s the hope — that there’s opportunity for people to grow,” he said.

Dhillon says he believes there are now a few dozen RCMP members who wear turbans across the country.

Many of the people who led the campaign opposing the RCMP’s uniform change have since passed away. The Star did, however, reach some of their surviving family members.

Mansbridge’s son, John, said the “sentiments of 30 years ago don’t necessarily match with some of the thoughts of today.”

“Some of the points that were being made back then may still be relevant, but they’re drowned out by louder voices. I don’t think any of us want to be part of that, quite frankly.”

“The courts spoke,” he added, “and I think that’s probably the end of the issue for all of us.”

Riley’s daughter, Diana, said she still feels “proud” of her father for taking a stand for something he believed in.

“The only thing I myself remember and still to this day feel very proud of is that Dad believed in something and he believed in it strong enough to take the government to court,” she said.

Her father and the others weren’t opposed to having a diverse force, she said.

“Inclusivity wasn’t the problem. It was flashing the superior garb.”

Hipson, one of the makers of the offensive pins, said he had no regrets about his actions, calling it a “fun time” and an exercise in free speech.

“That was a big highlight for me. I was doing quite well with the pins. When this controversy came, it just opened up another one. I kind of enjoyed it.”

Hipson chuckled as he recalled some of his pin designs.

“Most people were laughing at it. I guess some people took it serious.”

Asked if his position on Mounties wearing turbans had changed in 30 years, he said it hadn’t.

“I still don’t think they should get preferential treatment.”

Reid Moseley, owner of the Calgary collectibles store that Dhillon visited, said he was proud of his collection of “politically incorrect” pins.

“My business is a collectors’ paradise, so I have been told by many of my customers. It represents the true history of our country, through the exhibit and sale of physical reminders of where our country came from.”

It is “sad” that such ignorance persists, Dhillon said when informed of the comments.

“To veil the hateful pins with the thought that they somehow represent the true history of our country is irresponsible,” he said.

“They were symbols of hate in 1990 and they remain that today.”

And to suggest that the debate over the right to wear turbans in the RCMP was a “fun time” is demeaning.

Such sentiment, he said, belongs to someone who hasn’t grasped what it means to be Canadian.

Source: Thirty years ago, he became the first Mountie to wear a turban. Here’s why he still worries about hate ‘in the shadows’

Job or hijab? Singapore debates ban on Islamic veil at work

Contrast between Sikh wearing turbans (male) and prohibiting Muslims wearing hijabs (women) striking:

Every day before she starts her shift at a government hospital in Singapore, Farah removes her hijab – the Islamic veil she has worn since a teenager.

Although minority Muslim women can freely wear the hijab in most settings in Singapore, some professions bar the headscarf and a recent case has triggered fresh debate on diversity and discrimination in the workplace.

Now Farah has joined a growing number of Muslims who account for about 15 per cent of Singapore’s 4 million resident population calling for the ban to end, with an online petition gathering more than 50,000 signatures.

“They told me I can’t work here if I wear the tudung,” said Farah, using the local Malay term for hijab, as she recounts her job interview two years ago for a physiotherapist position.

“I felt a sense of helplessness, it’s unfair. Why has the tudung become a barrier for us to look for jobs?” asked the 27-year-old, who used a pseudonym for fear of reprisals at work.

She accepted the job eventually but has to remove her headscarf whenever she is at work.

Farah’s case is not an oddity.

There was outcry last month when a woman was asked to remove her hijab to work as a promoter at a local department store.

Halimah Yacob, the country’s first female president who herself wears the hijab, said there is “no place” for discrimination when asked her view of the case.

The store reversed its policy, but many took to social media pointing out restrictions remain on wearing the hijab for some civil servants, including policewomen and nurses.

Livelihood

The debate surrounding the hijab is not new in Singapore, a modern city-state which takes pride in its multicultural and multiracial background. The country is predominantly ethnic Chinese, many of whom follow Buddhism or Christianity.

In 2013, then Muslim affairs minister Yaacob Ibrahim said wearing a hijab at the workplace would be “very problematic” for some professions that require a uniform.

The following year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the hijab issue was about “what sort of society do we want to build in Singapore”, according to local media reports.

Singapore’s police force and the health ministry did not respond to repeated requests seeking comment.

Referring to the department store case, Singapore’s president said discrimination in the workplace was “disturbing” as it deprives a person from earning a living.

“People should be assessed solely on their merits and their ability to do a job and nothing else,” Halimah wrote on her Facebook, which attracted more than 500 comments.

“During this Covid-19 period when concerns over jobs and livelihoods are greater, incidents of discrimination exacerbate anxieties and people feel threatened,” she added.

Divided

The hijab has been a divisive issue for Muslims worldwide.

Many Muslim women cover their heads in public as a sign of modesty, although others see it as a sign of female oppression and in West Asian women face jail for eschewing it.

In Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province, women without a headscarf have been censured. In Malaysia, Islamic authorities have probed a book about Muslim women who refuse to wear the hijab.

But women’s rights campaigners in Singapore say they want Muslim women to have freedom of choice.

Such restrictions have hindered women’s job prospects, especially when the coronavirus pandemic has pushed Singapore into recession and companies are laying off, they say.

“Women should be able to practise their religion freely without having to choose between having a job or to practise their religion,” said Filzah Sumartono, a writer who helps run Beyond the Hijab, a website focused on Singapore Muslim women.

“This issue in Singapore is only being faced by Muslim women, it’s a strong discriminatory policy against Muslim women,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Identity

Others urge consistency, noting that the turban – headgear worn by Sikh men – is allowed at work in Singapore.

“Why the double standard,” asked Nur, a Muslim law student who signed the petition posted online in June. She requested not to use her full name to protect her privacy.

The 22-year-old said her mother and sister, who work as a nurse and in a private security company respectively, are both banned from wearing a headscarf at work.

She called on officials to explain the restrictions, saying countries such as Britain or Australia have changed tack, with disposable hijabs for nurses to address any hygiene concerns.

“I accept that racial harmony is very fragile, but it’s not just acknowledging these differences exist and live with them. It’s much more than that,” said Nur, a co-founder of Lepak Conversations, an online group.

“It’s about knowing these differences exist, accepting them and embracing these differences.” Filzah of the Beyond the Hijab group said the restrictions can make it more difficult for women to enter the workforce.

“Some women don’t feel comfortable removing a part of their identity just to be able to earn money,” she said.

Source: Job or hijab? Singapore debates ban on Islamic veil at work

As he readies for new role, 1st Mountie to wear turban reflects on RCMP career

Thoughtful reflections of a trailblazer:

Baltej Dhillon has kept a scrapbook during his nearly three-decade career with the RCMP.

There are photos of him standing proudly in the red serge in the early 1990s, the iconic Stetson hat replaced by a tan turban. There are newspaper clippings — both positive and negative. And there’s a schoolyard poem, filled with nearly every ignorant stereotype about Sikhs one could imagine.

“I’ll dress up in my coat of red / And wear my laundry on my head,” part of the poem reads. “It’s much better, they’ll decide / If we ride camels in the musical ride.”

It was written by a child and shared around the schoolyard, but it’s a dark reminder of some of the attitudes the trailblazing officer has faced over the years.

This week, Dhillon, 53, retired from the RCMP after a career that saw him rise to the rank of inspector, as he took part in high-profile cases, including the investigations into serial killer Robert Pickton and the Air India bombing.

“When I first got involved in the Air India task force, I wasn’t trusted. I wasn’t included in some of the meetings,” said Dhillon. “I was told that it was because there was concern that I might compromise the file.”

That mistrust is something Dhillon experienced before he ever donned the red tunic.

Born in Malaysia, a teenage Dhillion and his family moved to British Columbia in 1983. After high school, he studied criminology and initially wanted to be a lawyer. But he sought to become a Mountie after volunteering with the RCMP as a translator for Asian immigrants.

Dhillon formally applied to the force in 1988 and passed all the entrance requirements. But at the time, the RCMP dress code banned both turbans and beards — key components of his Sikh faith.

A CBC News story from 1989 shows a spandex-clad Dhillon exercising, as he waits for the regulations to change, allowing him to serve with a uniform that doesn’t clash with his religion.

A petition calling for the exclusion of turbans in the RCMP circulated at the time, with thousands of signatures. A Calgary businessman had pins made that clearly express opposition to turbaned Mounties.

In 1989, Baltej Dhillon, 23, had passed the tests required to begin training as an RCMP officer, but his refusal to stop wearing a turban, an article of faith for Sikh men, kept him on the sidelines. 1:54

But the young prospect had supporters, including mentors and the RCMP commissioner, and the regulations were ultimately changed to allow Mounties to serve with a beard and turban.

“The RCMP commissioner came face to face with the Charter of Rights [and Freedoms] in Canada, which clearly states that one cannot be discriminated for practising their faith,” said Dhillon.

When he went for training in Regina, Dhillon said other members of his troop were cordial. But the first time he entered the mess hall, the room fell completely silent.

“When I walked in, there were 1,200 eyes looking at me … it was very intimidating,” he recalled.

The young constable’s first assignment was in Quesnel, B.C., where he was greeted with a large plywood sign that said, “Welcome to Quesnel, Turbocop.” Dhillon decided to assume it was a welcoming message.

But he soon learned that his partner had told other officers that he wouldn’t back Dhillon up, because he was wearing a turban.

“All you’ve got is your partner, and if your partner’s saying, ‘I’m not backing you up,’ well, there goes your lifeline,” said Dhillon, adding that his staff sergeant soon took care of the situation.

For seven years, Dhillon was the only Mountie to wear a turban, until another Sikh man was posted in Burnaby, B.C., in the late 1990s.

“It was incredible … I certainly picked up the phone right away and shared with him my excitement and glee of seeing him in the ranks,” he said.

While Dhillon is leaving the RCMP, he’s not leaving law enforcement. He’s beginning a new role with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia, an integrated police agency focused on gang activity.

As he looks back on his career as a Mountie, Dhillon chooses to focus on the service he provided for the communities where he worked — not the death threats he received in the mail from across the country.

Diversity is now more visible in the RCMP and, according to Dhillon, the racism isn’t as prevalent — either inside the force or in the broader community. But it certainly hasn’t disappeared.

“Racism exists in our country,” Dhillon said. “It takes a toll on all of us.… It takes energy away from being better Canadians, being better citizens, being better neighbours and working toward something more for our children and our future.”

Source: As he readies for new role, 1st Mountie to wear turban reflects on RCMP career

Un élu presse le SPVM (Montreal police) d’intégrer le hijab et le turban

Other police services have managed to do so:

Le Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) doit autoriser ses agents à porter le hijab ou le turban, réclame un élu montréalais. Le conseiller Marvin Rotrand estime que le silence du corps policier sur ces accessoires religieux représente une barrière invisible pour les communautés culturelles.

Marvin Rotrand a récemment écrit à la responsable de la sécurité publique de Montréal, Nathalie Goulet, afin de réclamer l’intégration du hijab et du turban dans l’uniforme réglementaire du SPVM. «Ça envoie un message positif aux communautés : “Vous êtes les bienvenus. Si vous avez les qualifications, vous réussissez les tests, personne ne va s’opposer à votre candidature”», écrit M. Rotrand dans la lettre obtenue par La Presse.

Démarche en 2016

Ce n’est pas la première fois que l’élu presse le SPVM d’inscrire noir sur blanc que ces signes religieux soient acceptés dans l’uniforme des agents. En 2016, le corps policier lui avait répondu ne pas avoir «de politique précise en lien avec le port d’un hijab, ni un modèle d’approuvé». «Toutefois, nous restons ouverts à évaluer toute éventuelle demande à ce sujet.»

La Presse a tenté de savoir si le SPVM avait mis à jour ses politiques depuis deux ans, mais nous n’avons pas reçu de réponse à ce jour.

Marvin Rotrand estime que le SPVM fait fausse route en attendant de recevoir des demandes pour modifier ses règles. Le simple fait de ne pas intégrer le hijab représente une barrière invisible, selon lui.

«La communauté musulmane ne devrait pas avoir à le demander. On devrait le modifier avant. Ça ne devrait pas reposer sur les épaules des minorités de demander un traitement équitable.»

Plusieurs corps policiers ont déjà modifié leurs règles vestimentaires pour autoriser le hijab et le turban, dont Toronto et Edmonton. La Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC) a intégré le turban en novembre 1990 et le hijab en janvier 2016.

En fait, la police montée fournit même des hijabs et des turbans qui ont été approuvés. Ceux-ci ont fait l’objet d’essais pour s’assurer qu’ils ne nuisent pas au travail des agents. «Les essais ont démontré que le port du hijab et du turban ne nuit pas à l’efficacité des membres dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions», indique la sergente Marie Damian, porte-parole de la GRC.

Autorisation et déclaration

À noter, les policiers qui veulent être exemptés du port du chapeau traditionnel de feutre de la GRC doivent obtenir une autorisation et faire une déclaration de croyance religieuse. Depuis 2013, seulement onze policiers ont porté le turban et une seule policière a demandé à porter le hijab.

«Je m’explique mal comment d’autres corps policiers canadiens ont su adapter leurs exigences en matière d’uniforme afin de faciliter l’intégration des femmes musulmanes dans leurs rangs alors que la Ville de Montréal n’a toujours pas agi en ce sens», se désole M. Rotrand.

Selon lui, le SPVM se prive de candidats de qualité. Il estime par exemple que le corps policier n’aurait jamais recruté Harjit Singh Sajjan, l’actuel ministre de la Défense, qui a servi au sein de la police de Vancouver et en Afghanistan au sein des Forces armées.

via Un élu presse le SPVM d’intégrer le hijab et le turban | Pierre-André Normandin | Grand Montréal

Quebec: Les femmes en hijab et les hommes en turban pourront être candidats

Encouraging that this was unanimous vote in the Assemblée nationale:

Les parlementaires ont approuvé mardi un changement règlementaire qui permettra à une femme portant un hijab ou à un homme portant un turban de se porter candidats aux élections.

Le Directeur général des élections (DGEQ) a annoncé début février son intention de modifier le Règlement sur la déclaration de candidature. Il propose en outre d’exiger une photo à «visage découvert» dans le bulletin de candidature. Depuis 1989, le règlement exigeait des photos avec la «tête découverte», une disposition qui était jugée discriminatoire.

Le changement règlementaire permettra donc à une femme voilée ou à un homme portant un turban de briguer les suffrages. Il sera toutefois impossible à une femme portant un voile intégral de le faire.

La modification a été avalisée par une commission parlementaire mardi. Elle devrait être en vigueur aux élections d’octobre.

Lors des dernières élections, en 2014, le DGEQ a invoqué ce règlement pour refuser la candidature de Fatimata Sow, qui voulait porter les couleurs du Parti vert dans la circonscription de La Pinière. Mme Sow avait fourni une photo où elle était coiffée d’un hijab.

En vertu de la nouvelle mouture du Règlement, ce bulletin «pourrait» être accepté, a indiqué le DGEQ, Pierre Reid.

En point de presse, il a rappelé que l’objectif du Règlement était de faciliter l’identification des candidats. Selon lui, la disposition qui interdisait toute coiffure n’avait pas sa raison d’être.

«À partir du moment où vous avez un candidat qui s’identifie clairement, à visage découvert, comme c’est prévu pour les électeurs (…), on ne voyait pas d’utilité sans avoir d’autres explications de la présence de cette exigence», a expliqué M. Reid.

Les partis politiques ont exprimé à l’unanimité leur appui au changement règlementaire.

«Nos lois, nos chartes, doivent être respectées», a indiqué le premier ministre, Philippe Couillard.

De toute manière, a-t-il ajouté, peu importe qui se porte candidat, ce sont les électeurs qui décideront s’ils sont élus.

«Nous ne devrions pas être paternalistes vis-à-vis les citoyens et décider à leur place qui devrait être élu ou pas, a-t-il dit. Ils prendront la décision.»

«Le plus important est qu’on puisse voir le visage, a renchéri le chef du Parti québécois, Jean-François Lisée. Alors je n’ai aucun problème (avec cette mesure).»

La Coalition avenir Québec et Québec solidaire ont également approuvé le changement règlementaire.

via Les femmes en hijab et les hommes en turban pourront être candidats | Martin Croteau | Politique québécoise

RCMP allows Muslim women Mounties to wear hijab

English media finally caught up to the French media on this story (see earlier Le hijab, nouvelle pièce d’équipement des agentes de la GRC)

The Mounties have adopted a new uniform policy to allow female Muslim officers to wear the hijab.

Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, confirmed that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson recently approved an addition to the uniform policy to allow women officers to wear the head scarf “if they so choose.”

“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is a progressive and inclusive police service that values and respects persons of all cultural and religious backgrounds,” Bardsley said in an email.

Male members of the Sikh faith have been able to wear the turban as part of the RCMP uniform since the early 1990s, he noted.

That right was won by Baltej Singh Dhillon, a young practising Sikh who wanted to become a Mountie but also wanted to wear a turban on the job.

The federal government’s decision in 1990 to end the ban and allow him provoked emotional debate and widespread protests across Canada.

Bardsley said the new policy is intended to better reflect diversity in Canadian communities and to encourage more Muslim women to consider the RCMP as a career option.

Special RCMP hijab developed

RCMP Staff Sgt. Julie Gagnon said current policy, which came into effect in January 2016, requires an “exemption” to wear the hijab from the commissioner, the only senior officer permitted to approve faith-based accommodations.

Gagnon said the RCMP developed a hijab for applicants or serving female members of the Islamic faith, reflecting “the diversity of the RCMP’s workforce.” It underwent rigorous testing to ensure the design meets “the highest standards of officer safety.”

She said the RCMP currently has no members requesting to wear the hijab on duty.

The only other religious or cultural item allowed is the turban for male officers.

Source: RCMP allows Muslim women Mounties to wear hijab – Politics – CBC News

 

Le hijab, nouvelle pièce d’équipement des agentes de la GRC

Did not see this in the English language press.

Similar to policies in Edmonton and Toronto and consistent with the 1990 decision to allow Canadian Sikh members of the RCMP to wear a turban:

Dupuis janvier, la Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC) offre à ses agentes de confession musulmane le droit de porter le hijab avec leur uniforme.

Le commissaire de la GRC, Bob Paulson, a expliqué dans une note d’information à l’intention du ministre de la Sécurité publique, Ralph Goodale, que cette mesure vise à permettre au corps policier de refléter davantage la diversité culturelle du pays et d’encourager les femmes de confession musulmane à entrer au service de la GRC.

La GRC devient ainsi le troisième corps policier au pays à permettre aux agentes qui le désirent de porter le hijab, après la police de Toronto en 2011 et la police d’Edmonton en 2013, a souligné le commissaire Paulson dans sa note obtenue par La Presse en vertu de la Loi sur l’accès à l’information.

«La décision de permettre le port du hijab avec l’uniforme de la GRC a pour but de mieux refléter la diversité changeante dans nos communautés et à encourager plus de femmes musulmanes à envisager le travail de policier comme option de carrière», affirme Bob Paulson dans cette note datée du 14 janvier.

Il a souligné que trois sortes de hijab ont été testés par les autorités policières au cours des derniers mois et que le hijab qui a été retenu peut s’enlever rapidement, n’est pas encombrant et ne représente donc pas un risque pour l’agente qui décidera de le porter.

 «Les tests ont démontré que le hijab ne réduit en rien l’efficacité d’une agente dans l’exercice de ses fonctions.» – Le commissaire de la GRC, Bob Paulson

À l’étranger, d’autres pays ont aussi décidé de permettre aux policières de porter le hijab dans le cadre de leurs fonctions, notamment la Grande-Bretagne, la Suède et la Norvège, tout comme d’ailleurs certains États américains, a souligné le grand patron de la GRC. Il a rappelé que les Forces armées canadiennes permettent également aux femmes musulmanes de le porter.

Aucune demande pour le moment

En vertu de la Loi sur la Gendarmerie royale, le commissaire de la GRC est le seul haut gradé du corps policier ayant le pouvoir d’accorder des accommodements religieux aux agents. Mais il appert que M. Paulson n’a reçu aucune demande en ce sens pour le port du hijab de la part d’agentes employées de la GRC. «Jusqu’ici, il n’y a pas eu de demande formelle faite par une agente pour porter le hijab lorsqu’elle est en devoir», a d’ailleurs souligné M. Paulson dans sa note, soulignant que les demandes d’accommodements religieux sont traitées au cas par cas.

Toutefois, au cours des deux dernières années, la GRC a reçu quelque 30 demandes d’accommodements pour des raisons culturelles ou religieuses un peut partout au pays. Dans la majorité des cas, il s’agissait de policiers qui réclamaient le droit de porter la barbe, comme l’exige leur religion.

Rappelons que la GRC permet à ses policiers de porter le turban depuis 1990 dans la foulée d’une décision de la Cour suprême du Canada.

Source: Le hijab, nouvelle pièce d’équipement des agentes de la GRC | Joël-Denis Bellavance | Politique canadienne

The niqab election: Commentary by Wherry and Hébert, past controversies

Aaron Wherry has the rights argument nailed down:

At the outset, it should be understood that the niqab debate, or at least this particular niqab debate, is not about the niqab. Whether you like or agree with the niqab is irrelevant. How you would feel about your daughter wearing the niqab is besides the point. You are entitled to your opinion and, given the fraught politics and cultural curiosity that surround the garment, there is a discussion worth having about the niqab, preferably including the voices of the women who wear it. But for the purposes of whether or not the niqab should be banned during the swearing of the citizenship oath by new Canadian citizens your opinion is of no applicability. Proponents of a ban might want to note that, according to public opinion surveys, a large majority of Canadians do indeed oppose the wearing of the niqab during the oath, but this is irrelevant unless you believe that the rights of individuals should be determined by majority rule, that the extent of minority rights are at the whim of the majority.

One’s rights are what is at issue here. And on that note it is fun to note that on Thursday morning, about nine hours before Stephen Harper made his declaration about a women’s sartorial freedom, the Conservatives announced that, if they continue to govern long enough to do so, they will have the federal government purchase John Diefenbaker’s childhood home and declare it a national historic site. Among the accomplishments the Conservatives recognized in explaining the reason for such an honour was Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights, which acknowledged, among other rights, the freedom of religion. “It will give to Canadians the realization that wherever a Canadian may live, whatever his race, his religion or his colour,” Diefenbaker said in 1960, “the Parliament of Canada will be jealous of his rights and will not infringe upon those rights.”

Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights was ultimately overtaken by Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it is those Charter rights that are relevant (even if a Federal Court judge actually overturned the government’s policy on the niqab because he found it contradicted the Citizenship Act). As Zunera Ishaq‘s lawyers argue in their factum for the Federal Court of Appeal, “The impugned Policy forces the Respondent into an impossible choice: violate a sincerely held religious belief in a significant and material manner, or give up obtaining the Canadian citizenship that she is otherwise entitled to. And it forces this choice on her for no good reason.”

There are no practical justifications for the ban. Confirming an individual’s identity can be done privately before the oath ceremony. Confirming that an individual has said the oath—the practical consideration that Jason Kenney first claimed when he introduced his ban—can be done by having an official stand within earshot.

Jason Kenney has asserted that, based on his consultations, the wearing of a niqab is not properly grounded in religious theology. But we should surely not wish for a country in which ministers of the crown are the arbiters of what constitutes a proper expression of faith. The Supreme Court has set out parameters for legally recognized religious belief (in Syndicat Northcrest v. Anselem and R. v. N.S), and if the case of the niqab ban ever has to be adjudicated on Charter grounds the sincerity of Ishaq’s belief could be tested, but I might suggest that a decent and confident country should give the benefit of the doubt to the claimant unless the welfare of others or the country is somehow threatened.

In Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony, the Supreme Court upheld a law that was being challenged on the grounds of religious freedom, but in that case the Court found a “pressing and substantial” goal—specifically, minimizing the potential for identity theft associated with driver’s licences. There is no such goal here. There is only symbolism.

Source: The niqab election – Macleans.ca

A timely reminder of Sikhs wearing turbans in the RCMP. Those who forget history …

The rhetoric over the niqab in the federal election campaign is proving reminiscent of another furor, more than 20 years ago, around the turban and its compatibility with Canadian values and the country’s dearest institutions.

What was allegedly at stake in that debate in the 1990s was the very fabric of the nation, and the sanctity and perhaps survival of an important historic symbol of the country — the Stetson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Baltej Singh Dhillon, a young practising Sikh, wanted to become a Mountie. But his application to the force led to a kind of turban turmoil and an eventual intervention in Parliament by the Progressive Conservative government of the day.

The debate was featured on newscasts and dominated the public conversation. Political parties took positions on it, including the Reform Party, which deemed allowing the right to wear a turban unnecessary, and went so far as to pass a resolution at its 1989 convention banning such religious attire for the RCMP. At the time, Stephen Harper was a defeated Reform candidate and the party’s policy chief.

Dhillon is now a staff sergeant in the RCMP. The force refused to allow him to speak to CBC News about the turban debate. But in a video story produced by Telus Optik in B.C. and posted online, Dhillon recalled the tone of the debate.

“It was vicious. It was angry. It was emotional. It had all the elements of racism in there. It was a disappointment is what it was,” he said in the video.

“The fear was that we would lose the symbols that defined Canadians and defined our culture and defined who we were and our branding with the rest of the world.”

“And that was the greatest irony: That on one hand, we need to protect our symbols, and in the same breath, we need you to not protect your faith or your religion or your roots.”

Source: Niqab debate recalls RCMP turban furor of the ’90s – Politics – CBC News

Lastly, Chantal Hébert on some of the debates that diverse societies will continue to have and the struggle for balance.

While her conclusion is right, the question is how to have such a discussion in an open and respectful fashion, not used as wedge politics but the Conservatives and Bloc:

And yet, under the guise of this discussion, voters are getting a taste of one of the fundamental debates of the 21st century. It revolves around how the increasingly diverse communities that make up pluralistic societies accommodate their cultural and religious differences and it is not going away after Oct. 19.

Source: Niqab debate leading to wider discussion on religious, cultural accommodation: Hébert | Toronto Star

Quebec Soccer Federation reverses controversial turban ban – The Globe and Mail

Coming to senses.

Quebec Soccer Federation reverses controversial turban ban – The Globe and Mail.