Ottawa: The World Sikh Organization of Canada has written to Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and Montreal police chief, Martin Prud’homme in support of the call for the accommodation of religious headgear such as turbans and hijabs by the by the Montreal police. The issue had recently been raised by Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand.
Rotrand noted that federal defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, who served as a police officer in Vancouver, may not have had his application processed had he applied in Montreal because of his turban.
The issue of turbans and other religious headwear in the context of police uniforms has long been resolved in Canada. Sikh RCMP officers were granted the right to wear turbans and beards on duty in 1990. In 1996, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by three former RCMP officers who challenged this decision. Since then, many Sikhs have gone on to serve in police forces across Canada while wearing their turbans.
Human rights law in Canada and Quebec is clear that the wearing of religious headgear such as the turban must be accommodated to the point of undue hardship.
WSO President Mukhbir Singh said on Thursday, “there is a sizeable Sikh population in Montreal and it is entirely foreseeable that a turbaned Sikh will want to serve his or her community by becoming a police officer in the near future. We appreciate that religious accommodation is a highly-politicized issue in Quebec however, there is no reason that the Montreal police cannot proactively accommodate the wearing of the turban. It is the right thing to do and we appreciate Mr. Rotrand’s initiative to move this issue forward.”
The WSO calls on the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal to quickly resolve this issue so that that religious headgear is accommodated in the Montreal police uniform and all qualified candidates are given the equal opportunity to serve their community.