THE World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) on Monday called for the immediate reinstatement of over 100 Sikh security guards at City of Toronto sites who have been removed due to their religiously required facial hair.
The City of Toronto has recently instituted a “clean shave” requirement for all security guards on city sites resulting in the exclusion of Sikh security guards who maintain uncut hair as a tenet of their faith. Over 100 Sikh security guards have been removed from their jobs as a result.
The new City of Toronto mandate requires all security guards to be fitted for N95 respirators that seal directly on the face. Facial hair is not permitted when performing fit tests.
The WSO pointed out that these Sikh security guards served through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic wearing medical masks and were not required to be clean shaven. The new clean shave rules have been introduced at a time when visitors to City sites are no longer required to be masked. The clean-shave requirement is also not being enforced for staff and workers at city sites.
In response to the new rule, City of Toronto security contractors such as GardaWorld, Star Security and ASP Security have removed Sikh security guards from City of Toronto sites. Some Sikh guards have been laid off while others have been sent to alternative sites. Such relocations often come with a demotion in both rank and salary. In many instances, individuals who had been hired as supervisors or managers have been demoted to security guards.
The WSO noted that in a similar situation, bearded Sikh RCMP officers were removed from frontline policing duties in March 2020 as the RCMP required that all officers be fitted with N95 masks. The officers were allowed to return to duty in October 2020 after advocacy by the WSO.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada had written to Mayor John Tory and all members of Toronto City Council on June 7, 2022, asking for an urgent resolution to the current situation. No substantive reply has been received to that correspondence.
WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu said: “It is completely unreasonable that Sikh security guards who served in their positions at the City of Toronto through the height of the pandemic are now being terminated, reassigned, or demoted for not being clean-shaven.
“Visitors to City of Toronto sites are not required to mask and City staff are also not being asked to be clean shaven. It is unacceptable that the City of Toronto is unwilling to accommodate over 100 dedicated Sikh security guards who are committed to doing their jobs.
“Mayor John Tory and the City of Toronto must find a solution for these Sikh security guards and other affected employees. Those Sikh guards who have been removed must be immediately reinstated.
“Sikh police officers and other frontline care workers have served throughout the pandemic without being required to compromise their faith. There is no reason why Sikh security guards at the City of Toronto cannot be accommodated in accordance with the law.”