Sikh Motorcycle
photo: PrevenBlog

The Sikh community in Ontario, Canada is upset about being denied a religious exemption from the new motorcycle helmet law.

The Sikh community is upset at a recent ruling coming down from the Ontario court systems. They had hoped to get immunity from being legally required to wear motorcycle helmets as they ride their motorcycles, but were denied by a judge. This plea for a religious exemption to the rule was not enough to sway the Premier Kathleen Wynne, who could not bring herself to ignore the safety concerns brought up by allowing people to ride motorcycles without a helmet.

Sikh Religious Principles

One of the tenets of the Sikh religion is that men wear a turban to cover their heads over their uncut hair. This does not allow room for a motorcycle helmet to fit over the turban, and some have said that it would be an affront to the religion even if they could. It would now seem that many men in the Ontario region will be hanging up their riding gear rather than take off their turban to ride.

Motorcycle Helmet’s Safety Precedents

The major reason that has been cited for the denial to come down from the courts is that the mandatory helmet rule has shown progress. Since the implementation of the law, there have been thirty percent fewer fatalities on the road for motorcycle riders. Also, head injuries for those people who have worn motorcycle helmets have dropped by seventy-five percent. With all of this tremendous progress that has been made, many judges are hesitant to make an exception that could cost lives despite upsetting individuals from the Sikh religion.

Exemptions In Other Areas

Though Ontario has forbid anyone from riding without a motorcycle helmet, there are several other areas that either do not have the law or have made an exception for the Sikh community. In Canada, Manitoba and British Columbia have passed laws that allow Sikhs to ride unimpeded by motorcycle helmets. However data on any increase in injuries or fatalities is not available to see if the effects, if any, this has had on the community’s safety record. Other nations with high Sikh populations, such as Great Britain, have also made exemptions possible for Sikhs to ride without helmet.

Pursuit Into High Courts

While the Sikh community has expressed disappointment with the decision rendered by the courts, they have said that they will pursue the case to a higher court. They are going to file for an exemption again, and then take up the matter with the Ontario Human Rights Commission as a last resort.

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