TORONTO (RNS) The open road has closed for motorcycle-riding Sikhs in Ontario.

The province’s premier has informed Sikhs they are not exempted from motorcycle helmet laws.

In a letter this month to the Canadian Sikh Association, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wrote that not wearing a helmet poses “a road safety risk.”

“Ultimately, the safety of Ontarians is my utmost priority, and I cannot justify setting that concern aside.”

The Sikh association said it had worked for years to get an exemption on religious grounds, stressing that devout Sikh men are required to wear turbans to cover unshorn hair, over which motorcycle helmets do not fit.

It noted that two Canadian provinces — Manitoba and British Columbia — as well as Great Britain do not require turbaned Sikhs to wear a helmet.

Wynne said safety trumps religious freedoms and human rights codes in this case.

In jurisdictions requiring helmet use, mortality rates for motorcyclists have declined 30 percent, and head injuries have gone down 75 percent, she wrote.

She also cited a past Ontario court ruling that dismissed the case of a devout Sikh man who was ticketed for riding his motorcycle without a helmet. The court ruled that any violation of religious rights was justified because the helmet law saves lives and reduces public health care costs.

In a statement, the Sikh group said it is “deeply disappointed” in the government’s decision.

All four Sikh members of the provincial legislature supported the exemption, it pointed out.

Last November, Sikhs met with Ontario’s transport minister, who “suggested” an exemption was at hand, said Manohar Singh Bal, secretary of the Sikh association.

“If nothing else happens, then (we) go to court or the Ontario Human Rights Commission,” Bal said.

YS/MG END CSILLAG

14 Comments

  1. This same issue was addressed in England a few decades ago. A British officer was called to testify that in battle he had seen the turbans stop bullets.
    Perhaps the Sikhs should look up the law in England. Always thought it an interesting bit of trivia.

  2. Instead of working for years to get a religious exemption to a public safety rule, how about working to get helmet makers to design a helmet that can work with a turban?

    • The Great God Pan

      Alternate headline:

      Canadian taxpayers “deeply disappointed” with paying for major head injuries incurred by idiots who won’t wear helmets while riding on deathtraps at high speeds

      • Except the riders are taxpayers too, and if you followed that argument to its logical conclusion you would have to ban all potentially dangerous activities including most sports.

        Better idea would be for government to butt out and mind its own business. Laws like helmet-wearing or seatbelts are examples of victimless crimes where nobody is harmed but the person taking the risk.

        If I want to risk putting my head through my windscreen that ought to be my business & nobody else’s!

        • Yes, but then the paperwork gets really messy. The health insurance companies have to send out special consent forms for you to sign in which you agree that you will get no medical benefits if you were not wearing a helmet. The emergency room needs to check with the police to see if you were wearing a helmet, and if not, you have to prove that you have the means to pay out of pocket.

        • Not wearing seat belts is only a victim-less crime if A) there were no other passengers in the car and B) it was a single car collision (ie. it did not hit another vehicle) and C) driving on a road with no other cars and nothing else could hit it if the driver is unconscious, Sometimes the driver has a responsibility to be conscious even after slipping, spinning, or colliding if at all possible. Driving is a cooperative sport.

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    […] Ontario Sikhs 'deeply disappointed' with new helmet lawReligion News ServiceIn a letter this month to the Canadian Sikh Association, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wrote that not wearing a helmet poses “a road safety risk.” “Ultimately, the safety of Ontarians is my utmost priority, and I cannot justify setting that concern …Ontario Sikhs 'Deeply Disappointed' As New Helmet Law Overturns Religious …Huffington PostOn Religion-Based Exemptionsautoevolution […]

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    […] Ontario Sikhs 'deeply disappointed' with new helmet lawReligion News ServiceIn a letter this month to the Canadian Sikh Association, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wrote that not wearing a helmet poses “a road safety risk.” “Ultimately, the safety of Ontarians is my utmost priority, and I cannot justify setting that concern …Ontario Premier Washes Decades Of Sikh Community's Hard Work On The …South Asian LinkOn Religion-Based Exemptionsautoevolution […]

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