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Baltej Singh Dhillon

Sikh officer was first to wear turban


Baltej Singh Dhillon says he was destined to change RCMP rules

Monday, October 13, 2003

lightning rod for the visceral battles fought by Sikh-Canadians to define, in essence, the freedoms associated with being a Canadian, was the turban issue in the RCMP. Baltej Singh Dhillon (Centennial Award recipient in 1999), a Sikh raised in Malaysia, was denied entry into the RCMP because of his refusal to remove his turban. Politicians vacillated over the issue. Legionnaires and sundry other "outraged Canadians" rallied to the flag to have the "hat" removed and to preserve the tradition of the Stetson hat-wearing RCMP officer so romanticized by Hollywood.(All this notwithstanding the fact that the uniform code had been changed to accommodate women RCMP officers and that the then RCMP Commissioner supported the wearing of the turban.)

Baltej Singh Dhillon stands over six-feet tall but for over 300,000 Sikhs in Canada, he is much taller. Not only is his name synonymous to a crusader -- who fought for the right of Sikhs to wear turban in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1988, he is a RCMP officer and a perfect gentleman. Born in 1966 in Malaysia, Baltej is a happily married man, who believes in family values.

This proud Sikh, a true warrior, came out victorious in 1990 -- unscathed despite a death threat by his opponents, when he won his first ideological battle that started way back in 1988. There were a stream of protests that included over 195,000 Canadians signing petitions against Mounties wearing turbans. Baltej's opponents even filed a petition defending their case in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Sikh in shining armor continues to inspire thousands of Sikh youth aspiring to join the RCMP. Dhillon is presently an officer in a RCMP detachment in Surrey, B.C. He works as an investigator with the task force probing the 1985 bombing of the Air India aeroplane, in which over 300 people aboard died.




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