It is now almost a certainty that Sikhs in Ontario can ride motorcycles without helmets. Recently Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at a recent roundtable interview with the in Brampton. Ford was asked about exempting male Sikhs, who wear turbans for religious purposes, from helmets. “Make it easy, before Christmas,” he replied. “It’s going to be one of my agendas, I’ll move forward with it, I’m keeping my promise,” he said.
Sikh associations and motorcycle riders have been urging the provincial Ontario government to grant them exemption as it is impossible to wear a helmet over one’s turban. But successive provincial governments promised to look into it and then kicked the issue down the road.
Now, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has confirmed that Ontario will be the fourth province in Canada to have an exemption for Sikh motorcyclists.
News reports suggest that the Ministry of Transportation is seriously currently reviewing Ontario’s Mandatory Helmet Law.
Ontario laws will be similar to those on the books in Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba, where helmet exemptions for Sikh motorcycle riders are already in place.
The issue gained traction back in 2008 when Baljinder Badesha fought a $110 ticket with the Ontario Human Rights Commission for refusing to wear his motorcycle helmet. He didn’t win.
Former Brampton MPP and current federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also tried to introduce a private member bill in 2013 and in 2016 but was unsuccessful.
In Ontario, similar legislation has twice been stalled at Queen’s Park, where Premier Kathleen Wynne has said exemptions to the mandatory helmet law went against basic safety requirements.
The so far there have been no verifiable studies done to show that safety has been compromised in British Columbia, where Sikhs have been riding helmet free since 2009.
Sikh motorcycle enthusiasts are thrilled that they can now ride without having to break the law. And those who avoided investing in a motorcycle can now go ahead and get one. -CINEWS