OTTAWA (AP) — Canada’s national police force has eased restrictions that prevented bearded officers, including some Sikh and Muslim members, from front-line policing duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some RCMP officers had been assigned to desk duty in recent months because of difficulties with properly fitting a mask over religiously mandated facial hair.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada had pressed the federal government to find a solution.

Gail Johnson, the RCMP’s chief human resources officer, said in a statement Thursday that affected members across the country may return to operational duties, with a mask, under certain circumstances.

Bearded members will be sent out to calls only if the risk of exposure is low or multiple responding officers will be present.

At no time will officers or the public be placed at undue risk, the RCMP said.


The final decision on a return to operational duties will always rest with the officer.

“Should they prefer to be assigned to other policing duties as a safety precaution, we will continue to make that accommodation,″ Johnson said.

“Each case will be assessed on an individual basis and in cases where we find accommodations were not appropriate, we will address them through internal processes.″

The RCMP will continue to work on finding longer-term solutions that fully accommodate all bearded members.