Dress instructions | Section 3 Religious and spiritual accommodation

Table of contents


  1. The different religious and spiritual requirements of various groups should be respected, especially during moments of religious expression. If conflict arises, the CAF is guided by differentiating between the tenets of devout faith, which shall be allowed if militarily practicable, and the religious and spiritual practices of a particular group, which may be accommodated as practical. The desires of members who choose not to have religious affiliation should also be respected. In the extreme, advice may be obtained through the chain of command from the Base/Wing Chaplain, NDHQ/Chaplain General and NDHQ/Directorate Human Rights and Diversity (DHRD) See also Section 1, subparagraphs 12.d. and e. and Section 2, subparagraph 5.c.
  2. Religious items or accessories (e.g., a Christian Cross) which are not visible or otherwise apparent are unregulated and may always be worn provided they do not interfere with the proper wear and use of uniform items, accoutrements, or equipment.


  1. Introduction. The wearing of headdress on different occasions reflects a combination of the cultural etiquette of formal Canadian society, military custom, and religious practices. As a guideline, the norms of formal etiquette should be followed. Further guidelines for common situations are given in the paragraphs that follow. These highlight the differences between those whose customs require removing headdress as a sign of respect, especially by males in religious circumstances (the North American and European Christian norm); and those who cover the head as a sign of religious respect (Jews and others under varying circumstances). Similar requests to retain headdress may also apply to members who choose not to have religious affiliation. In addition:
    1. A member of the Jewish faith may wear a black, plain-pattern yarmulke with Ceremonial, Mess, Service, and Naval Combat orders of dress, and a CADPAT TW, or CADPAT AR yarmulke with those operational orders of dress, whenever he / she removes other headdress.
    2. Special details for adherents of the Sikh religion are contained in paragraphs 14. to 21. of this section.
    3. Special details for adherents of the Muslim religion are contained in paragraph 22. of this section.
    4. Special details for adherents of the Aboriginal spiritual are contained in paragraph 25. of this section.
  2. Military Funerals. Headdress shall be removed by the bearer party which includes bearer commander (excluding those participating in a Jewish service or when indicated by other religious practices) during the periods that the casket is being carried.
  3. Attestation. Recruits shall not wear headdress (unless required for religious or spiritual reasons) when being paraded before the attesting officer. The attesting officer and the escort shall wear headdress and shall remove it (unless required for religious or spiritual reasons) during the administration of the Oath of Allegiance or the Solemn Affirmation. Following the administration of the Oath of Allegiance or the Solemn Affirmation, the persons who remove headdress shall replace it.
  4. Summary Trial. The headdress of an accused member shall be removed (unless required for religious or spiritual reasons) prior to a summary trial, along with any articles that could be used as projectiles. Prior to the administration of oaths, all members present shall be ordered to remove headdress (unless required for religious or spiritual reasons). On completion of the administration of oaths, members present who removed their headdress, other than the accused, shall be ordered to replace headdress.
  5. Courts Martial. Headdress shall be worn or removed in accordance with the etiquette of the court. See A-LG-007-000/AG-001, Court Martial Procedures. Guide for Participants and Members of the Public. When so indicated by their religious practice (e.g., Sikh), CAF Members need not remove headdress during the administration of the oath. Civilian male witnesses (including civilian police) shall not wear headdress in court, except for adherents of faiths for whom it is not permitted or acceptable to remove headdress (e.g., Jewish or Sikh).
  6. Consecrated Buildings. All ranks shall observe the custom of the religious denomination concerned, in regard to the wearing of headdress in a consecrated building, except that headdress shall be worn when on duty as a member of the vigil during the lying in state of a deceased dignitary, or as a member of a colour party when depositing or receiving Colours. For Christian churches, headdress is removed at the church entrance (less headdress of female service personnel if that is the custom of the denomination concerned), and replaced at the exit. The advice of the officiating clergy will be sought and followed in each case.
  7. Messes and Canteens. Personnel who avail themselves of the privileges offered by a mess or canteen shall remove headdress on entering the premises. Except for mess and canteen staff, those entering for the purpose of performing a duty or an inspection, or those entering for the purpose of maintaining or enforcing discipline or when indicated by other religious practice (e.g., Sikh), need not normally remove headdress.
  8. Non-Service Buildings. Headdress shall not normally be removed in any public place, including elevators. However, personnel may observe the custom practised by civilians in regard to the wearing of headdress in non-service buildings such as restaurants, theatres and civil courts. When on duty under arms as an escort in a civil court, headdress shall not be removed.
  9. Public Transportation. Personnel travelling aboard a local public conveyance may remove their headdress. Personnel travelling extended distances by aircraft, bus or rail, may remove their headdress while in transit, however, headdress shall be replaced prior to exiting the public conveyance, vehicle or aircraft.
  10. Military and Privately Owned Motor Vehicles (PMV)
    1. Members wearing the uniform shall wear appropriate headdress while operating or travelling as a passenger in all military vehicle except:
      1. if the roof of the vehicle is too low to permit headdress to be worn with comfort and safety;
      2. on extended trips;
      3. on order of the senior members present; and
      4. in a staff car, PMV or bus.


All vehicles that are rented by DND are considered to be a military vehicle.

    1. When headdress has been removed in accordance with the provisions of the preceding sub-paragraph, it shall be replaced:
      1. when approaching and leaving a military establishment; and
      2. immediately upon exiting a military vehicle or PMV.
  1. Parades. Headdress shall be removed, when so ordered, by all ranks on parade except for musicians, Colour/Flag bearers and their close escorts. Sentries in the vicinity may be authorized to retain normal headdress on parade when others remove theirs to avoid drill complications. When ordered in connection with a religious event, it is optional for members to remove or retain their headdress.


  1. A CAF member who is an adherent of the Sikh religion (Keshadharis) shall wear CAF pattern uniforms and adhere to standard CAF dress policy and instructions, with the following exceptions:
    1. Hair and beard shall remain uncut, provided that the operational mission and safety is not jeopardized when it is required that the member wear occupational and operational equipment such as gas masks, oxygen masks, combat/vehicle/flying helmets, hard hats, scuba masks, etc. When a hazard clearly exists, the hair and/or beard shall be modified to the degree necessary for wearing the required equipment.
    2. In addition to uncut hair, four other symbolic requirements of the Sikh religion are authorized for wear by both male and female members (see paragraph 16), with all orders of dress. Should a conflict arise between the requirements to wear safety or operational items of clothing and equipment and these religious symbols, the manner and location of wearing these symbols she be adjusted. Unit commanders retrain the right to order the manner of this adjustment as necessary to meet valid safety and operational requirements.
    3. A turban shall be worn by members with ceremonial, mess, service dress. Turbans shall also be worn with occupational and operational dress, subject to the safety and operational considerations noted in sub-paragraph a., above. When engaged in combat operations, operational training or when serving with peacekeeping or multinational contingents, adherents of the Sikh religion shall, when deemed essential, cover their head with a patka or other customary clothing item (see paragraph 21.), over which they shall wear the headdress (including combat helmets) and other items of military equipment as ordered by the commanding officer.
  2. Except as otherwise provided by paragraph 14., the turban worn by members and additional authorized headdress worn by female members shall not be removed while wearing uniform. Similarly, when on duty wearing civilian clothing, a civilian turban and an appropriate civilian woman’s head covering shall not be removed. Specifically, such headdress shall not be removed:
    1. on parade;
    2. by a member of the bearer party at a military funeral;
    3. during the administration of the Oath of Allegiance by an attesting officer;
    4. when  attending  or  being  paraded  as  the  accused  before  a  trying  officer  at  a  summary  trial  or investigation;
    5. when attending or being paraded as the accused before a court martial;
    6. when entering a consecrated building;
    7. when entering a mess, canteen or dining room; and
    8. at  formal  or  informal  functions,  when  the  removal  of  headdress  might  otherwise  be  considered appropriate.
  3. Adherents of the Sikh religion shall, subject to the provisions of paragraph 14., observe the following five symbolic requirements:
    1. Kesh– leave hair on the head, face and body uncut;
    2. Kanga– wear a comb;
    3. Kara– wear an iron bangle (bracelet);
    4. Kacha– wear under-drawers of a specific design; and
    5. Kirpan– wear a symbolic dagger with an overall length (including handle and sheath) not exceeding 23 cm.
  4. The colour of turbans and hijab (see also Chapter 5, Section 1) shall be:
    1. Navy – white, or navy blue (black) when Navy berets are ordered worn;
    2. Army – rifle green or other authorized colour;
    3. AirForce – light blue;
    4. fieldcombatclothing – Canadian average green; and
    5. fulldress and undress – a colour which visually blends with the colour of the normal headdress. Full dress and undress items are noted in Chapter 6. Units shall obtain approval for adoption as noted in Chapter 2, Section 1, paragraphs 24. to 26., through the chain of command, including branch advisers.
  5. Crossed ribbons may be worn on the Navy, army and air force turbans in accordance with branch/regimental customs as illustrated in Figure 2-3-1.
  6. MPs shall wear two 3 cm wide scarlet ribbons.
  7. The pug (see Figure 2-3-1) shall be the same colour as the turban.
  8. Method of Wear. The following instructions are not intended to detail the method of styling and wearing hair on the head, of wearing the comb or of winding the turban. Instead they provide sufficient direction to ensure uniformity of dress amongst Sikh members. Accordingly, symbols and associated badges shall be worn as follows:
    1. Turban. Worn in a low, Sikh conventional manner, with the final winding right over left on the forehead. If ribbons are worn, their lower edge shall be 2 cm from the lowest edge of the turban at the sides of the head, and crossed right over left at the centre of the forehead. The ribbons shall be secured on the turban by tucking their ends into the folds at the front and rear.
    2. Cap Badge. Worn centred on the front of the turban and on the crossing point of any ribbons. The badge shall be locally modified to provide a brooch fastener to secure it to the cloth.
    3. Patka. A traditional Sikh cloth head-covering worn when a turban is not suitable, such as under combat, flying or diving helmets, or during sports or strenuous physical activity (see Figure 2-3-1).
    4. Kesh (Hair). Male members shall wear their hair tied in a knot at the crown of the head, and shall secure the hair of the beard under the chin, presenting a close-to-face, groomed appearance. Female members shall wear their hair styled in a bun at the rear of the head to facilitate the proper wearing of Standard CAF headdress.
    5. Kanga (Comb). Worn concealed in the hair.
    6. Kara (Bangle or Bracelet). Worn on the right wrist.
    7. Kirpan (Dagger). Shall remain sheathed, except for religious occasions and for cleaning purposes. The sheathed kirpan, worn under the outer shirt or jacket, shall be supported by a black cloth sling, slung from the right shoulder to the left side. Should the kirpan interfere with the wearing of uniform accoutrements or equipment, it may be slung from the left shoulder and worn on the right side.


  1. CAF Muslim women must wear CAF uniforms and observe CAF Dress Instructions as indicated in section 1, paragraph 12.(d)(2)b). For spiritual and religious reasons, members are authorized to wear the hijab, a modified long sleeve shirt in lieu of a short sleeve (SS) shirt in number 3B order of dress, and a modified ankle length Service Dress skirt in lieu of the shorter Service Dress skirt. Hijabs must be worn in consideration of applicable safety standards and will not  interfere  with  the wearing  of gas masks, oxygen masks, combat/vehicle/flying or construction helmets, divers masks etc. If necessary, members shall modify hairstyles, hijabs or both to allow the proper wearing of these items.
  2. Method of wear
    1. Those Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab will wear the approved design in the appropriate DEU colour. A white hijab will be worn in Mess Dress. The hijab must be worn in a fashion to permit the correct wearing of CAF head dress and any necessary safety equipment.
    2. When the modified CAF long sleeve shirt is worn in lieu of the service dress SS shirt in 3B order of dress, all accoutrements normally worn on the Service Dress SS shirt including ribbons and Specialist Skill badges will be worn. All buttons and fasteners will be closed. No tie will be worn in this order of dress and the hijab will be worn inside the shirt collar. The shirt will be worn outside the skirt or pants. Both the hijab and modified shirt must be worn together.
    3. The modified Service Dress shirt and hijab may be worn in number 1 and 3 orders of dress. In these orders of dress a tie will be worn.
  3. Specific requirements for wearing of the hijab are as follows:
    1. The hijab must be versatile, comfortable, neat, breathable, and easy to remove. It must also provide the wearer with adequate protection against specific climate and environmental training condition.
    2. The type of the hijab must be two pieces.
    3. The hijab must adjust to fit the face of the wearer and it must allow for the proper wearing of military headdress, and headgear, and the hijab must also conform to the colours and uniformity of the uniforms, DEU and Mess, worn in all three environments.


The hair must be as per section 2, paragraph 5.


  1. Aboriginal Veterans’ Medallion and Métis Sash. Aboriginal and Métis members of the CAF in uniform may wear the Aboriginal Veterans’ Medallion and the Métis Sash during Aboriginal specific events (e.g. Aboriginal festival, Aboriginal Achievement Awards, Pow Wows, etc.) and under the local commander’s authority, at parades and events honouring Aboriginal CAF members, and Remembrance Day. When authorized, these spiritual accoutrements shall be worn as follows:
    1. Medallion.On the right hand side of the uniform under the member’s name tag.
    2. Métis Sash. For both male and female members; around the waist, outside Tunic or Jacket, tied on the left, with the sash ends draping down the left leg. The sash is worn under a ceremonial waist belt.
Various Sikh symbols worn as headdresses or other adornments, including parts of headdresses, such as a pug or ribbon, and including a patka, kesh, kanga (which is a type of comb), kara (which is a type of bracelet) and a kirpan (which is a type of dagger)

Figure 2-3-1 Authorized Sikh Items of Wear

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