Observant Sikhs can now be correctional peace officers in Alberta

THE Alberta government on Friday announced that effective immediately, job postings will no longer require job applicants seeking to become correctional peace officers (CPO) to be clean-shaven. The revised policy means applicants with facial hair and medical or religious exemptions can now apply to be a correctional peace officer.

While officers are typically required to be clean-shaven so that respiratory masks fit as tightly as possible around their face, newly purchased personal protective equipment will help accommodate facial hair. The new equipment will allow officers, regardless of religion or medical requirements, to complete their duties in a safe manner, the government said.

Observant Sikhs maintain uncut hair (kesh) as an article of faith. For many Sikh men, the requirement to be clean-shaven is incompatible with their faith. Abolishing this job requirement recognizes an individual’s right to practise their faith when applying for a job and doing their duties.

“The former government’s 2016 policy requiring job applicants to be clean-shaven prevented observant Sikh men from applying to be correctional peace officers. I commend the Correctional Services division for rectifying this situation and for sourcing new personal protective equipment that will allow front-line correctional peace officers who are observant Sikhs to stay true to their faith and fulfil their duties in a safe manner,” said Tyler Shandro, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

“I welcome this policy change. It is important that no Albertan be excluded from fully participating in public life due to their faith. Inclusion and diversity are core Alberta values that we must stand up for,” said Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Transportation and MLA for Calgary-North East.

“I recently became aware of the requirement that Albertans who wish to become correctional peace officers must be clean-shaven. This puts not only Sikhs but many other Albertans in an impossible situation. They must either violate their religious beliefs or give up on becoming a CPO. Due to this requirement, many Sikhs did not even apply. This is a completely unacceptable situation that no Canadian of any background should ever have to experience. My sincerest thanks to the Alberta government for their quick response and initiative in finding a solution that enables front-line Sikh officers to serve their province while upholding their religious beliefs,” said Devinder Toor, MLA for Calgary-Falconridge

“We welcome the steps that have been taken to accommodate members of the Sikh faith who maintain uncut beards. We had been approached by several Sikhs who wanted to apply to be Alberta correctional peace officers but did not want to violate the tenets of their faith. We are grateful to Alberta Corrections for having found a solution that works for observant Sikhs,” said Harman Kandola, Vice President for Alberta, World Sikh Organization of Canada.

“We at Dashmesh Culture Centre are happy the policy from 2016 has been abolished. This gives more equal and fair opportunities to all individuals looking to become members of the correctional peace officers profession,” said Amanpreet Singh Gill, President, Dashmesh Culture Centre.