Minorities face invisible barrier to joining Montreal police: Councillor

A Montreal city councillor says the city’s police force is maintaining an invisible barrier to recruiting officer candidates from religious minorities by failing to update its uniform policy to include religious headgear.

In a letter to Nathalie Goulet, the head of public security in Montreal, Snowdon Councillor Marvin Rotrand is again asking for hijabs and turbans to be added to Montreal’s police service dress code.

This is the second time Rotrand has requested a uniform update. In 2016, the force said no one had requested any change so there wasn’t a need for a specific policy.

“Right now the message of the Montreal police is ‘hey, we have barriers and we’re not going to change unless minorities force us to do so,” said Rotrand.

Rotrand pointed to Canada’s defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, as an example. Sajjan wears a turban and he was a police officer and a soldier before becoming a cabinet minister. Despite the impressive resumé, Rotrand said the Minister’s Turban could exclude him from work at the Montreal police department.

“That should not be the case,” says Rotrand.

By not clearly stating turbans and hijabs are an accepted part of the Police uniform, Montreal could be discouraging great candidates from even considering a career as a police officer.

“When the news got out two years ago that the Montreal Fire Department was 99.25% white, it sort of discouraged minorities,” he added.

Rotrand says the police department should work in a context “where it recognizes our city is increasingly diverse” and that it seek to bring “all qualified people” into the police force.