Ottawa police plan to add hijabs to inclusion policy

The Ottawa Police Service is looking at revising its inclusion policy after an officer told CBC News she wanted the hijab addressed by the policy.

First and only Muslim woman officer in Ottawa called for revision on Friday

Chief Charles Bordeleau said the policy needs to be more explicit, but hijabs are already an acceptable part of uniform. (CBC News)

The Ottawa Police Service is looking into revising its inclusion policy after an officer told CBC News she wanted the hijab included in official policy.

On Friday, Cst. Lila Shibley — the first and only Muslim woman with the Ottawa police — told All in a Day she thought a hijab policy would encourage more young girls to apply to become police officers. 

After the interview, Chief Charles Bordeleau tweeted that his Monday to-do list included drafting a hijab policy.

While the current stance is hijabs are acceptable, he said he plans on looking into how to make the force's cultural and religious inclusion policy more explicit about allowing officers to wear the head coverings.

"We just want to make sure that, from a safety perspective, whatever dress an officer wears is appropriate for their job," he said Monday.

Bordeleau added that Shibley will have to make a formal request as a part of the process, but the discussion came from her conversation with CBC and not Quebec's new face covering ban

There are no "specific differences" between the existing policy and the notion of a hijab-specific ruling, said Bordeleau.

"We have a policy that speaks generally to respecting cultural and religious differences, but we want to make it clear in our policy that it is acceptable."

Ottawa police crafting hijab policy

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Ottawa's police chief & its only female Muslim officer say the force should be open, but safe.

Officer Shibley said she was surprised.

"I feel like it was lightning speed and that's the best I could ask for, a very responsive chief that's passionate about diversity and building the service to be reflective of the community we have," she said. 

Shibley said she hopes the new policy will encourage more Muslim women to apply to the police force. 

"I think it gives a lot of those female candidates something to strive for," she said. 

"If there isn't something explicitly out there that says 'we will take Muslim females wearing a hijab to be police officers,' there are people out there thinking that's a barrier." 

Shibley said she believes it's important to eliminate any barriers in order for the force to get the best possible candidates. 

There are men in the Ottawa Police Service who wear turbans, but, according to Shibley, the policy only came into place after a man wearing a turban applied. 

"What we want to do is get ahead of what policies could be, rather than wait for someone to get hired to change the policy to be more inclusive," she said. 

Lila Shibley is the first and only Muslim woman police officer in Ottawa. (CBC News)

Making a difference in your own community

Over the weekend, Shibley was given an award from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women recognizing her contributions to policing. 

A decade after she joined Ottawa police, she's still the only Muslim woman on the force. 

She's heard from young girls in Ottawa who say they want to become police officers because of her, she said.

"This is a possibility, even though it's not a traditional role for a Muslim female, it's something you can do to make a difference in your community."

With files from CBC Radio's All in a Day