New Exemption In Canada Brings Up the Global Debate Again
When can society restrict religious freedom? This is a question usually surrounding issues like abortion and gay marriage. But another issue is when should personal and public safety be more important than religious rights? Canada has a situation with the Sikh community dealing with this very question.
Sikh men are required to wear turbans as part of their faith. But this means they are not able to wear helmets. Canada requires anyone over the age of 18 to wear helmets while riding motorcycles. On April 12th, Alberta will become the third Canadian province to exempt Sikhs from the law.
Wearing a helmet decreases the possibility of death when riding a motorcycle by thirty-seven percent. Also, the healthcare costs of dealing with individuals who do not wear helmets can cost millions of dollars. While Sikhs represent less than two percent of Canada’s population, it still represents the allowed exposure of risk to a people. The government has a fundamental responsibility to protect citizens, even when citizens are uncaring or unwilling to be defended.
While Sikh groups have praised the decision, medical experts have expressed fear of having people not wear helmets.