Canadian city of Toronto apologises to Sikh security guards over N95 mask row

Updated on Jul 06, 2022 03:14 PM IST
Toronto news: Mayor John Tory said he 'strongly' believes no one should be subject to discrimination for their religious beliefs.
3M, Honeywell and a few others make N95 and N99 face masks (File)
3M, Honeywell and a few others make N95 and N99 face masks (File)

The Canadian city of Toronto has apologised to the World Sikh Organization of Canada for any delay' in reinstating Sikh security guards hired by contracted service providers who may have been terminated over a 'no-beard' policy that forced them to choose between their jobs and their faith.

A report by the Toronto Sun said over 100 guards had been fired over a rule that requires them to be clean-shaven so they can wear N95 masks.

The Sun cited a legal counsel for the Sikh group as saying private contractors told the Sikhs they were following city orders and either fired or transferred those asking for an exemption based on religious requirements.

Last month city officials a complaint was filed over a rule directing guards to wear N95 face masks directly over their face - which does not allow for facial hair that is a key part of the Sikh religion.

City officials have now said they will allow 'under-mask beard covers' as an option for individuals who wish to maintain facial hair as a tenet of their faith, Canada's CBC News reported Tuesday.

Essentially, 'under-mask beard covers' are tight-fitting covers over the head, as well as chin and cheeks, over which the N95 mask can be worn.

"The technique, also known as 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," city officials said.

Toronto has also directed security service providers to follow its new order. "... abide by all human rights legislation and require contractors to also comply... will not accept any contractors failing to accommodate religious freedoms," an official statement said.

The Sikh group's counsel, Balpreet Singh, told CBC News: "I'm glad the city has finally arrived with a solution that works for these Sikh security guards... a little bit disappointed it took this long."

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he 'strongly' believes no one should be subject to discrimination for their religious beliefs.

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