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In Sikhism, the turban is a head wrap which is considered an integral part of the culture and symbolizes an individual’s honor, dignity and self-worth. The practice of growing beard is the symbol of respect for the “perfection of god’s creation”. The turban is not commonly worn by many and thus those that are ignorant of its significance are prone to believing negative stereotypes. For example, uninformed individuals may associate the turban with terrorism as terrorists as Bin Laden or Taliban terrorists have worn turbans. Being a minority, Sikhs suffer racism and disrespect because of the lack of awareness.
Baltej Singh Dhillon was born and raised in Malaysia until 16 years old. In 1983, he immigrated to British Columbia where he completed his high school and started studying criminology in Kwantlen College. To improve the chances to get in high school he “helped the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) launch the Block Watch program in his community and was subsequently hired by the force to work on the program” and decided to seek admission to the RCMP. He fulfilled all the starting requirements for RCMP but he got refused to abide by the RCMP because of the dress code of that time where the turban was banned and the “Requirement of clean shaven faces”. Rather than giving up on his career, he went to Commissioner of the RCMP, Norman Inkster to proclaim about the injustice of the government against the turban wearing community manifested about the dress code policies. The commissioner supported Dhillon and pressured the federal government to change the policy in favor of Dhillon.
The RCMP assented in favor of the visible minorities taking positive actions in 1987 and changes were made in the following year. They responded on Baltej’s application by approving and allowing to wear turban and beards on the position of RCMP. This change of policy lead to controversies debating on the changes the Canadian government had to do because of the immigrants sacrificing the Canadian tradition and on the other side the danger of creating contempt or isolation the turban wear officers [GC1]. Also, in Alberta “one anti-turban campaigner produced and sold thousands of calendars lampooning changes to the RCMP uniform for ethnic or religious reasons”.
According to the Charter of Rights and Freedom as a Canadian he has the freedom of religion including the freedom from discrimination based on his religion or race so the justice was made in favor of Dhillon. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”. Freedom of religion has been defined as “the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination”. And the Section 15. (Equality rights) includes the racial equality, physical and mental disability. It forbids “certain forms of discrimination perpetrated by the governments of Canada with the exception of ameliorative programs (affirmative action) and rights or privileges guaranteed by or under the Constitution of Canada in respect of denominational, separate or dissentient schools (religious education)”.“Also, in March 1990 few changes were made in RCMP dress code allowing the freedom of turban and beard for Sikhs. Hopefully now I’ll be able to continue on with my career goal of becoming an RCMP officer”, Dhillon told the CBC at the time. “I will not have this stumbling block that would prevent me of one, practicing my religion, and secondly, serving my country Canada as an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police”. Many critics, including some municipalities in western Canada that contracted the RCMP for municipal police services, condemned the government’s decision. Others launched legal challenges. By 1996, however, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada had upheld the government’s decision.
In this free world no one is bound to obey the unconstitutional laws until unless they are in the agreement and implemented by the law. Baltej Dhillon had a dream of becoming a Mountie and instead of giving up his dreams he fought for his dreams and rights fearlessly. His one step has not only made things better for himself but has encouraged so many others to fight for their rights and not just give up on their ambitions. His struggle to fight for the right to express and take pride in his religion became a fundamental step for many religions to have the courage to fight their own personal fights against discrimination towards their religious rights. He has proved the significance of religious beliefs and set an example to never let go your self-respect.
Moreover, the government made it easier to adopt in the society giving Sikhs the equal rights as Canadians accepting their religion and race. Also empowering the individuals who belong to the other religion with different race to use the great opportunities given by the government to serve the country and fight for their rights instead of living in the fear of isolation or discrimination.
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