Baltej Singh Dhillon, the first turbaned Sikh officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), has been appointed Chair of WorkSafeBC’s board of directors, making him the first South Asian to hold the top post.
Dhillon, a member of the Board since 2017, was appointed for a three-year term effective June 30 after an announcement by Minister of Labour, Harry Bains, last week.
“Baltej was a veteran police officer who brings expertise in law enforcement and six years of experience as a director at WorkSafeBC. He will be committed to WorkSafeBC’s role in investigating serious workplace incidents to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” Bains said in his announcement.
The WorkSafeBC is a provincial agency dedicated to promoting safe and healthy workplaces across British Columbia.
Dhillon retired from the police force in 2019 after a three-decade-long career working in intelligence, special enforcement, protection services, and in investigations for the 1985 Air India bombing task force and the Pickton case.
He made history by being the first RCMP member to wear a turban as part of the uniform, and also received Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals for community service.
“I am excited to begin working as chair with my fellow board members and WorkSafeBC staff to continue making progress in improving the workers’ compensation system to meet the needs of workers, employers and others throughout the province,” Dhillon said.
Born and raised in Malaysia, Dhillon immigrated to British Columbia in 1983 at the age of 16.
Dhillon studied criminology and applied to the RCMP in 1988 where he refused to abide by the dress code of the time, which banned turbans and required clean-shaven faces.
In March 1990, after months of protests, the Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced several changes to the RCMP dress code, which included freedom to keep beards and wear turbans for Sikhs.
The WorkSafeBC board of directors is appointed by the British Columbia minister of labour. The board members serve as stewards of WorkSafeBC and the workers’ compensation system.