Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Que. guard fired after insisting on wearing hijab

Updated Wed. Mar. 14 2007 11:24 PM ET

Canadian Press

MONTREAL -- A Quebec prison has fired one of its guards-in-training because she insisted on wearing a hijab to work.

Quebec's union of prison guards said the Muslim headwear posed a threat to the woman's safety should she have to patrol among prisoners, French-language television network TVA reported earlier this week.

Rules at Montreal's Bordeaux jail, where the woman was training to work, stipulate that a guard's hair must be tied back and they cannot wear ties.

The rules make no mention of hijabs.

Quebec's deputy minister of correctional services agreed that hijabs can easily be turned into a weapon.

"With a simple turn of the wrist, you have a noose,'' said Jean Lortie.

"There is no doubt that we will have to ask her to not wear this headcover to work,'' he added.

According to both Canadian and provincial correctional authorities, this marks the first time a hijab-wearing woman has wanted to become a guard in a Quebec prison.

The incident has fuelled recent debate in Quebec over reasonable accommodation for minorities.

Herouxville, a rural town in central Quebec, drew international attention when it adopted a declaration of "norms'' that tells immigrants how to fit in and forbids face coverings other than on Halloween.

In Montreal, men were banned from pre-natal classes at one Montreal community centre to accommodate Muslim, Sikh and Hindu women.

Premier Jean Charest has ordered a commission to look into the issue.