Valérie Plante Open to Religious Garments in Montreal Police Force

Marian Scott, Montreal Gazette, April 3, 2017

Mayor Valérie Plante said Tuesday she is “very open” to letting Montreal police officers wear religious garb such as a turban or hijab.

“I’m very open to this proposal,” Plante said to reporters when asked about a proposal by Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand that officers in the Montreal force be allowed to wear religious garments.

“I have always been very supportive of supporting the full participation of people from all backgrounds in employment opportunities, whether it’s in the SPVM or the Montreal civil service, among others,” Plante said after a press conference announcing creation of an expert panel on retailing.

Several police forces, including the ones in Toronto and Edmonton, as well as the RCMP allow officers to wear the hijab and turban.

“I think the fact that other big Canadian cities do it, I think shows it’s a necessity. As for me, I’m in favour of the SPVM reflecting on what should be put in place to ensure the full participation of all Montrealers who wish to join the police force,” Plante said, adding that thinking of ways to be more inclusive is “a sign of the times.”

Last month, the mayor appointed a 15-member advisory panel with a mandate to devise a plan on diversity and inclusion within a year. Members represent numerous cultural, religious and racial groups, the disabled, the LGBTQ community and Indigenous Peoples.

Plante said the SPVM has shown “enormous openness” to diversity and that she hoped it would consider how to make its hiring policy more inclusive by amending its dress code. But she stopped short of saying she would require police to do so.

“We have to see with the SPVM how to encourage the participation of all citizens,” she said.

“I’ll let the SPVM consider if it’s a priority issue and how they will manage this in the coming months and years,” she said.

Ian Lafrenière, a spokesperson for the SPVM, said the question of allowing religious garb was “very theoretical for the moment.”

“There haven’t been any requests” for permission to wear such garb, he said.

“This situation has never come up,” he said.

“If we were to study such a demand, the first issue we would look at is workplace health and safety,” Lafrenière said.

In January, Rotrand wrote to Nathalie Goulet, the executive-committee member responsible for public security, suggesting that amending the police force’s dress code would be a way of encouraging more cultural diversity in the force.

Plante also reacted Tuesday to a report in the Journal de Montréal that computer hackers obtained personal information on 869 donors to former mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre’s party shortly before the Nov. 5 election, including their credit card numbers, addresses and dates of birth.

“It’s troubling to hear that. Nobody wants personal information to get into the hands of who knows who, especially bank information,” Plante said.

She said that her party, Projet Montréal, was not targeted by a cyber attack, and that it has assured donors that their personal details were not stolen.

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