Alberta purchases new PPE for correctional officers, abolishes job requirement

People with facial hair and medical or religious exemptions can now apply to be a correctional peace officer

Alberta purchases new PPE for correctional officers, abolishes job requirement

Alberta has purchased new personal protective equipment for correctional officers that will help accommodate facial hair.

The new equipment will allow officers, regardless of religion or medical requirements, to complete their duties in a safe manner, according to the government. Correctional peace officers use respiratory protective equipment to prevent or mitigate the risk of exposure to highly toxic substances.

According to a report released in April 2021, two-thirds (66.1 per cent) of businesses in Canada said they needed or anticipate to need personal protective equipment (PPE) to operate in accordance with COVID-19 public health guidelines.

Also, the new equipment pave the way for people with facial hair and medical or religious exemptions to apply to be a correctional peace officer. Officers are typically required to be clean-shaven so that respiratory masks fit as tightly as possible around their face.

Effective immediately, job postings will no longer require job applicants seeking to become correctional peace officers (CPO) to be clean-shaven.

“The former government’s 2016 policy requiring job applicants to be clean-shaven prevented observant Sikh men from applying to be correctional peace officers,” said Tyler Shandro, minister of justice and solicitor general. “I commend the Correctional Services division for rectifying this situation and for sourcing new personal protective equipment that will allow front-line correctional peace officers who are observant Sikhs to stay true to their faith and fulfil their duties in a safe manner.”

Observant Sikhs maintain uncut hair (kesh) as an article of faith. For many Sikh men, the requirement to be clean-shaven is incompatible with their faith. Abolishing this job requirement recognizes an individual’s right to practice their faith when applying for a job and doing their duties, according to the government.

And stakeholders welcomed the new policy.

“We welcome the steps that have been taken to accommodate members of the Sikh faith who maintain uncut beards,” said Harman Kandola, vice-president for Alberta, World Sikh Organization of Canada. “We had been approached by several Sikhs who wanted to apply to be Alberta correctional peace officers but did not want to violate the tenets of their faith. We are grateful to Alberta Corrections for having found a solution that works for observant Sikhs.”

“We at Dashmesh Culture Centre are happy the policy from 2016 has been abolished,” said Amanpreet Singh Gill, president, Dashmesh Culture Centre. “This gives more equal and fair opportunities to all individuals looking to become members of the correctional peace officers profession.”

However, officers without a medical or religious exemption will still be required to be clean-shaven, according to the government.

Recently, Ontario proposed the Personal Protective Equipment Supply and Production Act, 2022 (PPESPA) which will require the province to maintain a significant minimum level of critical goods, ready to be deployed to withstand the challenges of extraordinary events without having to rely on unstable foreign supply.

In July 2020, the federal government established the Essential Services Contingency Reserve, to which essential service organizations can apply for temporary, urgent access to personal protective equipment. Ottawa also launched an online hub for buying and selling PPE.