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Canadian Sikhs up in arms against hard hat policy

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October 20, 2005 12:32 IST

Faced with the threat of losing employment in various longshore sectors, some Canadian Sikhs are fighting the government's decision to make wearing of hard hats mandatory while on job, which they say will go against their custom of wearing the turban.

Avtar Singh Dhillon, who earlier fought for and won the right to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, is along with other members of the community, now up in arms against a new hard-hat policy that he says has limited the jobs available to baptized Sikh longshoremen like himself.

Dhillon, Amarjit Singh Sidhu and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have filed a grievance with the BC Maritime Employers' Association over new safety regulations making hard hats mandatory in several union jobs, The Vancouver Sun reported.

"The turban is very important for the Sikhs in history," Dhillon was quoted as saying by the paper.

"This is an issue all over Canada for Sikhs in the building industries, fishing industries, construction industries, lumber industries. We want to solve this problem," he added.

The Sikh workers have also won the right to be heard on the issue before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.     

A longshoreman for a decade, Dhillon said the April hard hat policy meant that some of the jobs he used to have access
to on the waterfront are no longer available to him, it said.

However, Frank Pasacreta, president of the employers association, said the new hard-hat policy is an attempt to make the waterfront safer by reducing workplace accidents.

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