This man help
to bring Sikh Police officer with turban in RCMP
February 1, 2003
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 Canada.
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
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 RCMP."
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, is history!
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 to 1994.
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. (The Tribune)