Sunday, 28 December 2008
Baltej Singh Dhillon was the first Sikh Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer to be allowed to wear a turban. He was born in 1966 in Malaysia and studied criminology to become a criminal lawyer. He helped the RCMP launch Block Watch, which is a neighbourhood watch organisation and subsequently hired by the force to work on the program. When Baltej went to the recruiting office and he met all the initial requirements, but the recruiting officer raised the delicate issue of the turban. RCMP policy did not allow it at the time, however the issue went to then-Commissioner of the RCMP, Norman Inkster. Inkster sided with Dhillon, and pressure was put on the federal government to change the policy. Many people were opposed to the change and believed that the Stetson hat was part of the uniform and allowing a turban wearer would change the face of a national icon. Even though 150,000 people signed petitions to retain the traditional RCMP dress code, Sikhs pointed out that Sikhs had fought in the British army in the two world wars and On March 15, 1990, the federal Solicitor General, Pierre Cadieux, announced in the House of Commons that the policy was amended to permit Sikhs to wear the turban while on active duty in the RCMP.