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Trudeau ‘disappointed’ over RCMP policy making officers shave their beards and wear masks

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WATCH: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said he was “disappointed” to hear of an RCMP policy that calls for all officers to shave their beards and wear medical-grade face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic as a safety measure. It is being criticized as discriminatory against Sikh and Muslim officers whom keep facial hair for religious reasons.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday lamented an RCMP policy that calls for all officers to shave their beards and wear medical-grade face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The policy has been criticized as discriminatory against Sikh and Muslim officers, some of whom keep beards for religious reasons.

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B.C.’s top doctor weighs in on the issue of Mounties and masks

“I was very disappointed to hear of this issue with the RCMP, because I do know that many other police forces and other organizations have figured out ways of upholding health and safety standards without needing to create discrimination against certain individuals because of their religion,” Trudeau said at a news conference.

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“The presence of diverse Canadians in our police force and all our systems of authority is something extremely important for all Canadians and it is something that I certainly hope the RCMP rectifies quickly.”

Dozens of Mounties have been pulled from the frontlines because of their facial hair.

At least 30 Sikh RCMP members have been reassigned since March 31, according to the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

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“To me, this is a clear example of discrimination and it really shouldn’t have continued as long as it has,” Balpreet Singh, a lawyer for the organization, told Global News.

“The fact of the matter is there are solutions available and the RCMP just doesn’t seem interested in looking at those solutions.”

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The organization raised the issue with federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair in June, Singh said, but they are disappointed it has taken this long to get any resolution.

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The national division of the RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an interview earlier this week, a spokesperson for the RCMP detachment in Surrey, B.C., said officer safety is a top priority.

“We are concerned that our members aren’t able to serve in the capacity they wish to,” Cpl. Elenore Sturko said.

“Unfortunately right now, we don’t have any alternatives that are approved for use for the RCMP at this time.”

Click to play video 'Dr. Bonnie Henry on masks and RCMP officers with beards' Dr. Bonnie Henry on masks and RCMP officers with beards
Dr. Bonnie Henry on masks and RCMP officers with beards

Beards and masks do not seem to be an issue for all police agencies, however. Municipal forces in Vancouver, Delta, B.C., and Toronto all have policies in place.

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B.C.’s provincial health officer also said this week that she doesn’t see an issue with wearing a mask and having a beard, unless the person need a special respirator mask.

“I believe there are very few cases where a police officer would need to wear a respirator,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “For the most part, they are not involved in resuscitating people and there are many other types of masks that can be used safely.”

– with files from Maham Abedi