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August 5, 2009

A Reversal of Tolerance - Part 2

Disclaimer: I am a Canadian born white male, married into a visible minority family. I consider myself very open minded and non-racist; however, I do have opinions - some of which may be interpreted as racist and/or prejudice. These opinions are my own, and I welcome any feedback as long as it remains civil.

In this series, I will be discussing examples of where we (society, governments or individuals) demanded our rights, often at the expense of common sense. At the end of each example, I'll include my personal opinion. (Hey, it's my blog...)

Part 1 - White Males Need Not Apply

Part 2 - The RCMP Uniform - A Canadian Institution
Can there be anything more Canadian than the uniform of the RCMP? Even Monty Python poked fun at it! As Canadians, we often tire of the stereotype that our police (Mounties) ride around on horses in these elaborate uniforms. Every souvenir shop we go into that has anything remotely to do with Canada will have maple syrup and stuffed animals in these famous red uniforms. We get sick of it.

Until... Wait. Someone wants to change our sacred Mountie uniform??!! NO WAY!!! Well, yes way. Now, instead of being sick of the stereotype, many of us became loud and firm supporters defenders of this iconic red uniform

In 1990, Baltej Singh Dhillon became the first Sikh officer in the RCMP to be allowed to wear a turban instead of the traditional Stetson. On March 15, the federal government, despite protests, decided that Sikhs would be permitted to wear turbans while on duty as RCMP officers.

Comments from the public were loud and clear - mostly along the lines of "Other countries don't change their uniforms/protocols for others", or "he came to this country, he must adopt the Canadian culture", and of course it got much more rude than that.

Fortunately for Mr. Dhillon, history was on his side. From Wikipedia:
[...Sikh leaders pointed out that turbaned Sikhs served in the British Army in two World Wars and now work in many Canadian police forces.]

On March 15, 1990, policy was modified to allow for Sikhs to wear turbans while on active duty within the RCMP. The rest is history.

To this day, whenever there is a similar (even remotely) situation in the news, this always comes up as a hotly debated topic. The same arguments, the same complaints... often from the same people.

My Opinion:
When I first heard about this, I admit I was one of the complainers. I was the wise old age of 22 and knew everything there was to know about every conceivable topic. That is OUR uniform!! How dare you come here and change our country!! As I got older and added to my knowledge of everything, I became more flexible to the point I'm at today. Honestly, if this is the biggest item on our plate, we're in pretty good shape. From everything I've read, Mr. Dhillon was qualified in every way, did not get selected because he was a visible minority, went through the same training and any other cadet and has become a very accomplished officer. Hell, I even think his uniform looks quite sharp. So, if I am in need of RCMP assistance, and Mr. Dhillon shows up... I could care less what's on his head. Yes, the RCMP did modify its widely recognized ceremonial uniform. And you know what? Those damned stuffed bears are still in the souvenier shops! Life goes on...


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