Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh. (Hansard TV)

Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh. (Hansard TV)

MLA wants guarantee for religious dress in B.C. legislature

Surrey’s Rachna Singh says ‘uncovered’ could mean no turban

Assurances from Speaker Darryl Plecas and the B.C. legislature’s senior administrator that religious symbols such as a turban or Indigenous headdress are acceptable to wear in the chamber aren’t good enough for a Surrey MLA.

Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh has written to Plecas, asking him to make an official ruling when the legislature resumes sitting Monday. Singh’s letter points to a standing order that states: “Every member desiring to speak is to rise in his or her place, uncovered, and address the speaker.”

Singh quoted a recent dress code update for MLAs and legislature staff from Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd, which states: “For certainty, Indigenous attire, traditional cultural attire and religious attire continue to be considered appropriate dress.” She asked Plecas to further clarify the situation.

“Leaving issues of personal identity to interpretation or popular precedence makes those protections, by definition, precarious,” Singh wrote Thursday. “Adopting changes to this rule will ensure the legislature remains a welcoming space for all Canadians.”

Indigenous attire, turbans and other traditional clothing have been worn in the legislature many times with no questions asked. Speakers have also allowed unconventional costumes to mark special events, such as the annual practice of former Burnaby MLA Harry Bloy to wear his Boy Scout leader uniform to mark the achievements of Scouts Canada.

The legislature update of staff and ceremonial dress code stems from the controversy that erupted last year over spending and travel by former clerk Craig James and former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz. They were accused of charging made-to-measure suits and cufflinks from a London tailor shop while on a 2017 business trip. Plecas, newly elected as Speaker, was also on the trip that involved stops at the British and Scottish parliaments, and a tour of St. Andrews and its famous golf course.

RELATED: B.C. legislature speaker agrees to auditor-general review

RELATED: Legislature gifts, clothing need better control, auditor says

After being suspended with pay pending the outcome of a police investigation, James said the suits were from the same tailor that supplies judge-style robes and ceremonial uniforms based on the British royal family’s Windsor uniform, worn by the sergeant at arms and B.C.’s lieutenant governor.

In a letter to MLAs and staff Thursday, Plecas said it is up to MLAs to update the standing orders for dress code.

“This is a matter that is best determined through the normal channels of consultation amongst the house leaders,” Plecas wrote.

Plecas’s letter also announced that sergeant-at-arms security staff will no longer enforce dress code for employees and reporters who have access to the speaker’s corridor and other secure areas surrounding the legislative chamber.

“I know that employees will exercise excellent judgment in determining what is appropriate dress,” Plecas wrote, adding that the legislative press gallery executive will determine what is suitable attire for members and guest journalists.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

The Greater Vernon Ringette Association is one of six Vernon sports groups benefitting from B.C.’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (Morning Star file photo)
Relief funds keep Okanagan in the game

Clubs at risk of closure due to inability to offer programs and fundraise

Golden Rotary Club president Isabelle Simard presents a check in Invermere to the winner of Golden’s bingo. (Michele LaPointe photo)
Golden Bingo continues to grow; expands to other BC communities

The money is going back into the community through various Rotary projects

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health South Okanagan Similkameen

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Authorities have confirmed a case of COVID-19 within a school in Kelowna. Someone within the Rutland Elementary School community has tested positive. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express/FILE)
Authorities confirm COVID-19 exposure in Central Okanagan school

Interior Health (IH) states they will be following up with anyone potentially exposed

Homeless man lying on the bench. (File photo)
Temporary emergency shelter opens in Central Okanagan

The shelter, located at the former location of Tree Brewing, will offer 38 beds

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said the city won’t look at changing its policy regarding automatic cost of living pay bumps for himself and city councillors, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (File)
Kelowna won’t look at nixing automatic pay raises for council, mayor

Mayor Colin Basran said the raise is minuscule, won’t look at changing policy amid residents’ COVID struggles

Most Read