Manjit, though not an RCMP officer, donned the uniform
to show how a turban looked with the police gear.
NRI Manjit Singh and a lady officer in RCMP livery.
ONE of the most famous of Canadian sayings is, "the
Mounties always get their man!" It reflects their
dedication towards duty and the tenacity, efficiency,
competence and justice that is synonymous with the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), affectionately
and respectfully known as the Mounties. There can
be no prouder police force. Their red serge tunic
with that hair-raising, blood-curdling red represents
The following story has a slight twist. The Mounties
did get their man but before that came about, this
man got his Mountie!
And the man who got his Mountie was Manjit Singh.
Manjit came to Canada in 1960 as student. He got a
university degree and stayed on to get immigration
status. He worked in various companies in Toronto
and Montreal and it was in 1986 when he was in a senior
management position with Air Canada that he received
a call from Ottawa from the Minister in charge of
the Treasury Board.
They were setting up an advisory group to advise
the minister on hiring people belonging to visible
minorities (Sikhs, Chinese, Japanese and Blacks amongst
others) for the Federal Public Service and Crown Corporations.
This was part of a package programme to implement
"employment equality" in Canada.
Manjit was on the committee for visible minorities,
which was set up to advise the minister on recruitment,
promotions and also what changes were required to
be made in the policies of the government so that
the target groups could be represented in the government
"As a result of our study it was found that
though the visible minorities formed 11 per cent of
Canadas population, only 1 per cent were represented
in the civil service. It was a very disproportionate
number. The visible minorities now form about 18 per
cent of Canada.
"In 1988, the RCMP being a federal agency realised
that it needed to increase the representation of visible
minorities. In 1985, after the crash of Air Indias
Kanishka, when the RCMP launched its investigations
into the crash, it realised that it had no one who
spoke Punjabi and could talk to the expatriate Sikh
community and there are about half a million
Sikhs in Canada.
"The RCMP realised that it was not in step with
the changing demographics of the country. The RCMP
came up with a philosophy of community policing, so
it decided to start hiring people from different countries,"
explains Manjit Singh.
In 1988, the Commissioner of the RCMP appreciating
the work Manjit Singh was doing for the Treasury Board
and him to assist the RCMP.
The RCMP had asked various communities to give their
views about recruitment of visible minorities. Manjits
role was to give the point of view of Sikh Canadians.
"This was done with my companys permission.
The President of Air Canada was only too pleased to
allow me to do this work. It was a feather in Air
Canadas cap to have one of their employees assist
the Federal government, the Treasury Board and the
RCMP. Thats how I started working with the RCMP,"
says Manjit Singh.
Very soon the Commissioner of the RCMP decided that
he would allow turbaned Sikhs to serve in the RCMP.
The RCMP went through its hiring and training manuals
to learn if the induction of turbaned Sikhs would
cause any systematic barriers. "For a number
of years, I assisted RCMP officers and pointed out
what policies and manuals were required to be modified
to ensure that a turbaned Sikh officer could serve
without any difficulty. So it was in 1990 that the
first turbaned cadet entered the RCMP academy in Regina,
Sasketchwan in mid-west Canada. Again, I was asked
to go to the academy and assist the instructors. They
had never dealt with a Sikh and they were a little
nervous. I held a seminar with the instructors, including
the commanding officer of the academy. I told them
about Sikhs. Prior to that I was asked to meet Baltej
Singh Dhillon. The first Sikh recruit to join the
RCMP, Baltej is from Malaysia. I met Baltej along
with a supervisor from the RCMP. There were a number
of issues to be discussed and sorted out like diet,
uniform and, of course, the turban. For example, every
Mountie is required to be able to swim. The RCMP wanted
to know how a Sikh would swim with a turban. It was
decided that he would wear a rubber cap. Also it was
agreed that during training, he would wear a patka.
I had to describe what a patka was."
This meant a change from the Stetson hat to a turban.
"That was a very big issue," said Manjit.
"Suddenly there was a backlash from the conservative
elements in the Canadian society. They feared that
the immigrants would take away the sanctity of the
RCMP. The veterans of the RCMP were the most concerned.
They raised a petition with a quarter of a million
signatures, opposing the decision. Not only that,
the veterans sued the Commissioner. The case went
to the federal court and this meant that the Queen
was being sued. So the Department of Justice put together
a legal defence team and once again I was asked to
help. The defence team needed to know more about Sikhism.
And once the hearing started, I was asked to be a
crown witness. So I spent 10 days in Calgary, where
the hearing was held, with a team of lawyers and the
Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP. I was called to the
witness stand to explain how I had helped the Commissioner
in facilitating the integration of turbaned Sikhs
into the RCMP. The end result was that the court maintained
that the government had the authority to implement
changes and a turbaned Sikh officer could serve in
The Solicitor-General, however, told the Commissioner,
"I want to see what a Sikh will look like in
RCMP uniform!" Once again Manjits help
was sought. The Commissioner called him to his office
in Ottawa. Manjit modelled the RCMP uniform comprising
the red serge coat, breeches, boots and the turban,
for the Solicitor General. The rest, as they say,
There is a corollary to this exercise. Up to this
time the women RCMP officers wore the red serge coat,
Stetson hat and a skirt. Around the same time when
the turban was introduced into the RCMP, the dress
code for women officers also changed to breeches.
When Manjit modelled the turban, a lady officer modelled
the breeches and the boots.
Manjit Singh was associated with the RCMP from 1988
The story, however, does not end here. A couple of
months ago, Manjit Singh got a phone call from Los
Angeles. It was the Sheriffs Office of L.A.
County. The Sheriff had decided that in view of the
large number of different ethnic and religious groups
in southern California, it was about time that the
Sheriffs office represented these communities.
He was going to have turbaned Sikhs. "They asked
me for help. Of course, Baltej Dhillon was also asked
for his experience and views."
This year, the first turbaned Sikh will go for training
in the Sheriffs department in Los Angeles County.