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Bearded Mounted Police allowed back on duty

Mounted Police via Wikimedia Creative Commons by Andrea_44

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is allowing bearded Mounties back on operational duties after being accused of discriminating against Sikh and Muslim officers, reports CBC.

The RCMP reversed a COVID-19 policy that reassigned bearded officers to desk duty due to concerns that their beards would prevent them from properly wearing the required N95 respirator masks.

According to CTV News, the policy was protested by the World Sikh Organization as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as being discriminatory against those who wear beards for religious reasons.

Trudeau condemned the policy as an example of systemic racism in the RCMP.

Bearded officers are now allowed to return to work, but only in situations with a low risk of COVID-19 exposure.

“Calls for service will be triaged from call centres, with bearded members being assigned to respond operationally only if the risk of exposure is low or multiple responding officers will be present,” said Gail Johnson, chief human resources officer of the RCMP, in a statement. “At no time will we accept putting our officers or the public at any undue risk.”

The RCMP says the policy was only implemented out of concern for the safety of the officers.

“I regret and understand the frustration that caused,” Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan wrote in a memo obtained by CTV. “The decision to reassign you was out of concern for your safety and in no way meant to hinder the ability of our members to do their job. The health and safety of all employees will always be a top priority.”

The RCMP is now looking to find an appropriate mask to accommodate officers with facial hair. Johnson stated that they are working with Innovations Solutions Canada to develop “inclusively designed PPE” for these officers.

The World Sikh Organization is “relieved” that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has reconsidered the policy.

However, Balpreet Singh, the organization’s legal counsel, added that the RCMP should have been able to resolve the issue earlier.

“I personally feel that this entire situation should not have dragged as long as it did given that other forces arrived at a solution for Sikh officers fairly quickly,” Singh said to CTV. “This was a clear example of systemic discrimination in the RCMP and I hope the RCMP takes this as an opportunity to address that larger issue.”

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