Baltej Singh Dhillon did not set out to make history, but that is exactly what he did in 1990 when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) changed its rules to allow him to wear his turban as part of the uniform.
Born in Malaysia, Dhillon came to Canada as a 16-year-old, at a time when there was belief in the community that in order to participate in mainstream Canada, Sikhs had to cut their hair, remove their turbans and perhaps change their names.
“It was never my intention to change RCMP rules, I just wanted to be a police officer,” says Dhillon.
But when the commissioner made a recommendation to the Solicitor General to change the existing uniform policy and the court decided that not to allow Dhillon to join the RCMP with his faith intact would contravene the Charter of Human Rights, there were protests all across Canada.
The matter went to the Supreme Court which ruled that the change was lawful.
“The difficulties were like a chisel to a stone, they revealed the core of my being. I believe I became a better person,” says Dhillon.