Last week, Quebec moved to allow Muslim women prison guards to wear hijabs on the job, but it only did so as part of a settlement of a human rights complaint filed four years ago. If the issue arises in other provinces, governments should not wait for a human rights commission ruling before permitting the wearing of hijabs.
The Quebec complaint was filed by a Muslim woman in training to be a prison guard, and although permission was granted as part of a settlement between Quebec’s Public Security Department and the human rights commission, the woman’s victory is rather a hollow one – she has long since dropped her guard training and is pursuing a different career.
However, the decision will hopefully pave the way for other Muslim women interested in correctional careers, in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. Accommodating the hijab as part of a guard’s uniform is no different than allowing Sikh RCMP officers to wear their turbans instead of the regulation hats. Turbans have never interfered with the ability of a Mountie to do his job, and it will be the same for the hijab, as long as women guards wear head scarves with Velcro fastenings that allow for quick removal in an emergency.
Editorial in Calgary Herald, 2 January 2012