The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is to allow its female Muslim officers to wear hijabs, updating an iconic uniform "to better reflect the diversity" in Canada's communities.

"The commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recently approved this addition to the uniform," Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Ralph Goodale, the public safety minister, told the AFP news agency.

"This is intended to better reflect the diversity in our communities and encourage more Muslim women to consider the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a career option."

The policy was quietly enacted despite the fact that no officer had yet asked to wear the hijab as of earlier this year. 

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However, about 30 officers had asked for a relaxing of the rules for religious or cultural reasons over the past two years, the Montreal daily La Presse reported, citing an internal correspondence between Goodale and the force's commissioner Bob Paulson.

The memo also said that the type of hijab was selected to be included in the uniform that could be removed quickly and easily if needed.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police became the third police force in Canada to add the hijab option after Toronto and Edmonton.

The uniform - a red serge tunic, leather riding boots and wide-brimmed felt campaign hat - dates back to the 1880s and was last updated in 1990 to allow Sikh officers to wear turbans. 

Source: Agencies