Calgary is the latest police service to develop a hijab for female officers, as forces across the country prepare to recruit more Muslim women to law enforcement. The Western city’s police force joins Edmonton and Toronto in offering the hijab as part of the police uniform. Calgary Police Service approved the hijab in principle a year-and-a-half ago, and is evaluating “prototypes” to come up with the best version for female officers, Regimental Sergeant-Major Rob Patterson said. “We haven’t had a Muslim female member apply and be successful within the service, but it’s going to happen and it’s just a matter of time,” he said in an interview. Sgt.-Maj. Patterson, who is in charge of Calgary police’s uniform standards, said there are some safety concerns around the hijab and the force is developing the safest design. “It’s a solid piece of fabric worn around a person’s neck and head which could be used against them as a weapon,” he said. “What we are currently still doing, is just doing evaluations on what form that hijab needs to take to be safest for the member to wear.” He added that a female member could still wear a prototype version if she wanted to, but there have been no requests. The RCMP also recently updated its uniform policy in January to include the hijab, in a bid to encourage more Muslim women to consider policing as a career option. Of the forces that offer the head scarf as a uniform option, only one auxiliary female officer, who volunteers with the Toronto Police Service, currently wears one. Other police services will consider the hijab on a case-by-case basis or are revamping current policies to allow it.
In Halifax, women are permitted to wear a hijab if requested, and official policy is being rewritten to include them, Constable Dianne Woodworth said. The Vancouver Police Department “would consider” such a request after an assessment from the training unit, Sergeant Randy Fincham said. In 2013, Saskatoon updated its dress policy to include “deviations” as a result of religious requirements, but it must be approved by the chief of police. Ottawa officers have “access” to turbans and hijabs, although it’s not clear if the hijab is designed by the force itself. One Ottawa officer wears a turban. None of the forces have received requests from women officers to wear the hijab. Montreal police would also consider allowing them, Commander Marie-Claude Dandenault said. “We’re definitely open to it, but we have not been faced with it yet so we don’t have a clear position on it,” she said. “We want to evaluate different aspects of it.” Sgt.-Maj. Patterson said Calgary police decided to allow hijabs after the decision made by Edmonton in 2013, and by talking with the Muslim community. “Some of the discussions came up about whether or not we would allow a hijab to be worn as part of our uniform, and it took very little discussion to determine that yes absolutely we would,” he said. “Down the road, at some point in time, the fact that a Muslim female member that wears a hijab is able to just immediately integrate straight into the service with a solution in place, certainly I think is going to go a long ways in helping to build a better relationship with the communities as a whole.” The National Canadian Council of Muslims welcomed the RCMP’s recent decision to allow members to wear the hijab, calling it a “natural evolution for Canadian policing.” But spokeswoman Amira Elghawaby said in some cases, such as the recent death of Somali-Canadian Abdirahman Abdi after what many called a violent encounter with Ottawa police, it will take much more to fix fractured relationships. “Obviously we want a police service that reflects their communities, but when there’s systemic problems … that require change, I think that that’s a long journey,” she said.