Ottawa: (October 1, 2020) The World Sikh Organization of Canada welcomes the RCMP’s decision to allow bearded Sikh officers to return to operational duties.
In a statement released today, the RCMP announced:
"Impacted bearded members across Canada may return to operational duties wearing the appropriate PPE assigned to them based on a risk assessment carried out by the Commanding Officers in their respective provinces. Calls for service will be triaged from call centres, with bearded members being assigned to respond operationally only if the risk of exposure is low or multiple responding officers will be present. At no time will we accept putting our officers or the public at any undue risk. The decision to return to active operational duty is based on the risk assessment carried out by the Commanding Officer however, the decision to return to operational duties will always rest with the affected members."
The WSO had been advocating on behalf of the affected RCMP officers since April 2020.
Bearded Sikh RCMP officers were removed from frontline policing duties in March 2020 as the RCMP required that all officers be fitted with N95 masks. N95 masks do not form a proper seal with facial hair. The wearing of the mask however, was not mandatory and left to front line officers’ discretion and only necessary after an assessment of risk factors.
The use of the N95 mask is only necessary where there is an aerosol generating medical procedure (AGMP). Regular medical masks are sufficient in every other situation. BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had said she saw little reason police would need to wear the N95.
WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu said today,
“We are glad that bearded Sikh RCMP officers will be able to return to operational duties like Sikh officers in every other police force across Canada. The affected Sikh RCMP officers were feeling disheartened that this situation had dragged out for six months and this will be a relief to them.
We are hopeful that this incident will create momentum to find more permanent PPE solutions for bearded frontline workers so that they can continue to contribute in their respective positions. The federal government is best suited to lead that initiative.
While we are glad that the RCMP has now taken steps to resolve this issue, we are disappointed it took this long and needed to become such a public issue. The RCMP was the only police force in Canada that refused to accommodate bearded Sikh officers. This points to a much deeper systemic discrimination issue that the RCMP needs to address as a matter of priority."
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals.