The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, better known as Mounties, announced this week that they will allow officers to wear a hijab along with their uniforms, if they so desire.
The change was approved back in January, but only publicly endorsed recently. The decision, according to public safety spokesperson Scott Bardsley, “is intended to better reflect the diversity in our communities and encourage more Muslim women to consider the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a career option.”
The RCMP becomes just the third Canadian police force to allow hijabs on duty, following similar measures by the Edmonton Police Department in 2013 and the Toronto Police Department in 2011. Other law enforcement organizations in Sweden, Norway, London, and some U.S. states already have similar policies, Bardsley said.
The change is one of very few in the history of RCMP attire. In 1990, the organization allowed for male Sikh officers to wear turbans on duty. Other than that, the uniform has remained largely unaltered since its inception 200 years ago.
An icon of Canadian culture, the Mounties’ red serge jackets, Stetson campaign hats, and high brown riding boots were originally inspired by British military uniforms of the 1800s. Originally tasked with patrolling whisky traders along the American border, today the RCMP provides federal law enforcement in eight provinces and three territories throughout the country. Their distinct uniforms and boots, unlike the most common Magnum Stealth boots used by law enforcement patrols, have made them a lasting global symbol of Canada.
The RCMP hijab announcement coincides with a similar decision made by Police Scotland this week, reflecting growing trends of acceptance of religious dress.
“Like many other employers, especially in the public sector, we are working towards ensuring our service is representative of the communities we serve,” said Police Scotland Chief Constable Phil Gormley. “I hope that this addition to our uniform options will contribute to making our staff mix more diverse and adds to the life skills, experiences and personal qualities that our officers and staff bring to policing the communities of Scotland” — and no doubt in Canada as well.
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