Over 100 Sikh community members, who lost their jobs for keeping a beard, a must in the religion, will be reinstated under the updated regulation of Covid Protocol in Toronto, Canada.
The City of Toronto has apologised to the World Sikh Organization (WSO) of Canada for “any delay in addressing this issue and ensuring security contractors were offering religious accommodations.”
The apology came after the WSO called out the new regulation of Toronto, which instituted a “clean shave” requirement for all security guards on city sites.
“Effective today, the City of Toronto 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,” said a statement from the City of Toronto.
The City of Toronto formally contacted its contracted security service providers and restated its expectations that they appropriately accommodate any Sikh security guard employees who have requested religious exemptions and reinstate any employee whose employment was terminated, immediately. “The City will not accept any contractors failing to accommodate religious freedoms," said the statement.
The WSO had registered its concern to the city authorities in Toronto. “Facial hair is not permitted when performing fit tests. As per WSO, this has caused the exclusion of Sikh security guards who maintained uncut hair as a tenet of their faith,” said WSO in a statement.
In response to the rule, the City of Toronto security contractors such as GardaWorld, Star Security and ASP Security had removed Sikh security guards from City of Toronto sites.
Some Sikh guards were laid off while others sent to alternative sites. WSO of Canada had written to Mayor John Tory and all members of Toronto City Council on June 7, asking for an urgent resolution to the current situation.
UNDER-MASK BEARD COVERS
The updated protocol allows under-mask beard covering.
In this, people apply a tight-fitting mask over a beard that covers the chin and cheeks, and ties in a knot at the top of the head.
An N95 mask is then worn over the cover. “The technique, also known as the Singh Thattha Method, is used by many Sikh people in the medical community. and has been found to be highly effective in respirator fit testing,” said the city administration.
In a similar situation, bearded Sikh Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers were removed from frontline policing duties in March 2020 as the RCMP required that all officers be fitted with N95 masks. The officers were allowed to return to duty in October 2020 after advocacy by the WSO.