Social justice trailblazer sharing experience with base

Inspector Baltej Dhillon

Inspector Baltej Dhillon

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

An RCMP officer who is best known for successfully challenging the Mounties’ dress code to include turbans has an upcoming speaking engagement at the base.

Inspector Baltej Dhillon will discuss his career and life experience battling intolerance and racism at a public forum hosted by the Defence Visible Minority Action Group (DVMAG) at the Chief and Petty Officer’s Mess, March 14, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

“In the armed forces, like our paramilitary force the RCMP, there are a lot of things that we share, and the fact that people in both organizations today are less troubled by someone serving in a turban goes to prove we have come a long way.”

Dhillon currently works in Surrey, B.C., as Officer in Charge of Operational Readiness and Response for all British Columbia detachments.

His dress code battle began in 1988 at age 21 when he was wanting to join the RCMP. Standing in his way was a policy that forbade beards and turbans. Dhillon is Sikh, and the turban and beard are a part of his Sikh identity.

He challenged the policy, and it soon morphed into a heated national debate over dress code. Thousands of Canadians denounced any change to the dress policy, signing petitions that demonstrated their intolerance towards the Sikh community. Street vendors sold anti-turban pins and one Alberta business sold thousands of calendars satirizing a dress code that included turbans.

But in March 1990, after months of debate, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government introduced changes to the RCMP dress code, allowing for observant Sikhs to wear beards and turbans.

With the policy changed, Dhillon began his police training with the RCMP in Regina and graduated in 1991.

“Inspector Baltej Dhillon is a trailblazer and his precedent-setting battle enabled every culture in Canada to serve while practicing their spirituality and faith,” said Petty Officer Second Class Kanwar Nijjer, DVMAG Chair. “He fought for everyone at a time when it was a shock for many people to envision an RCMP officer wearing a turban; now this diversity is the norm in our society.”

The public forum in CFB Esquimalt will commemorate International Day for Elimination of Racism and Discrimination.

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  1. Harjinder Kandola says:

    This wasnt social justice. This was civil rights. Know the difference.
    SJ is the red-headed stepchild of Civil rights.

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