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Canada Corrections Canada Hires First Female Muslim Guard

Jan 7, 2005
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Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Corrections Canada hires first female Muslim guard

Recruit in training to work in men's prison

By KATHLEEN HARRIS, QMI Agency
Last Updated: December 10, 2010 6:50pm

The Correctional Service of Canada has hired its first female Muslim prison guard who will wear a hijab specially designed for the dangerous institutional setting, QMI Agency has learned.

CSC confirmed the recruit is now on her second week of a nine-week training program in Ontario and will be placed as a guard in a men¹s federal penitentiary when she's done.

As a correctional officer, she will be permitted to wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid skin-to-skin contact with male offenders in accordance with her religious and cultural practices, but has been told she may be required to remove them if circumstances require it.

"It has required some research on our part to ensure her religious and cultural needs are accommodated within the parameters of our requirements for safety and security of institution and staff," said CSC national spokesman Graham Andrews.

After processing the recruit's application, the CSC formed a working group to work out ways to address both the employer's and the employee's needs.

A special hijab head covering is being developed that will come off easily if an inmate grabs her, instead of giving the offender physical control.

Efforts are also underway to obtain equipment such as a breathing apparatus that works with the hijab.

CSC and the employee have also established a mutual understanding about physical contact with men, which is prohibited under the Muslim faith.

"During exercises, she is wearing gloves and a long-sleeved shirt so that she doesn't have to have contact with males in that situation.

But she is fully aware that in an institutional environment, there may come a time when she does have to have skin-to-skin contact with males. She is aware of that," Andrews said.

The employee has also worked with CSC to develop a schedule for prayers during break times that respects her religious requirements while also fulfilling the expectations of any other participant in the rigourous training program.

Andrews said in past, CSC chaplaincy and human resources have worked with Sikh employees to develop special turbans suitable for the prison setting.

There have also been special allowances for a replica kirpan to be worn inside the penitentiary.

Andrews does not believe there has ever been a job application from a woman who wears a burka, but said any request would be evaluated in the overarching context of institutional safety.

As an employer, CSC strives to create a diverse work force that reflects both the prison population and Canadian society at large, Andrews said, noting 6% of staff are visible minorities, 7.9% are aboriginal, 4.6% are people with disables and 47.6% are women.

kathleen.harris@sunmedia.ca

source: http://www.ottawasun.com/news/canada/2010/12/10/16508136.html
 

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