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City of Toronto Apologizes To Global Sikh Body Over ‘No Beard’ Rule, Allows ‘Under-Mask Beard Covers’

By: News Desk

News18.com

Last Updated: July 06, 2022, 15:54 IST

The City of Toronto has allowed under-mask beard covers for Sikh employees (Image: Shutterstock)

The City of Toronto has allowed under-mask beard covers for Sikh employees (Image: Shutterstock)

After the initial directive, several Sikh workers in Toronto were demoted or laid-off.

The City of Toronto issued a formal apology to the World Sikh Association over the ‘no-beard’ policy which led to furore among the Sikh community in Canada.

The City of Toronto in its altered directive said that it will permit ‘under-mask beard covers’ in order to accommodate any individual for whom maintaining a beard is a tenet of that individual’s faith.

“Effective Tuesday, the City of Toronto said that it will immediately permit “under-mask beard covers” as a reasonable accommodation option for individuals who maintain facial hair as a tenet of their faith and are required to be present at City sites with protective N95 respirator requirements,” the statement said.

It directed contracted security service providers to accommodate any Sikh security guard employees who have requested religious exemptions and reemploy any employee who may have been terminated following the previous directive.

Toronto’s previous rule stated that security guards in areas where large congregations are held or at homeless shelters must wear a N95 respirator mask. They are also supposed to wear the N95 mask when exposed to people with Covid-19 or during suspected outbreaks.

The city observed that due to having a beard the mask would not fit properly.

“Sikh police officers and other frontline care workers have served throughout the pandemic without being required to compromise their faith,” the World Sikh Organization president Tejinder Singh Sidhu, said in a statement.

“There is no reason why Sikh security guards at the City of Toronto cannot be accommodated in accordance with the law,” he further added.

Shortly after the City of Toronto announced the new rule some workers were laid off and hundreds of other Sikh workers were demoted to low-salary roles.

The Toronto Sun reported that more than 100 Sikh guards lost their positions at City of Toronto sites over the rule. Some Sikh employees told their private contractors that they could ask for an exemption based on religious requirements but then they were demoted to other roles.

The employers took this route rather than deal with the city’s demands.

The under-mask beard covering or the Singh Thaththa Method, is used by many Sikhs who are part of the medical community. The person applies a tight-fitting mask over the beard which covers the chin and cheeks and then ties in a knot at the top of the head.

The N95 mask is then worn over the cover and this method was found to be highly effective in respirator fit testing.

(with inputs from ANI and The Guardian)

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first published:July 06, 2022, 15:50 IST
last updated:July 06, 2022, 15:54 IST