Sikhs ex­empt from hel­mets

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - SPORTS - SHAWN JEFFORDS

TORONTO — On­tario will soon al­low tur­ban-wear­ing Sikhs to ride mo­tor­cy­cles with­out hel­mets, join­ing three other prov­inces in pro­vid­ing the ex­emp­tion.

The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment said Wed­nes­day that the ex­emp­tion — which goes into ef­fect Oct. 18 — will rec­og­nize Sikh mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ers’ civil rights and re­li­gious ex­pres­sion.

“The safety of our roads will al­ways re­main a pri­or­ity,” Premier Doug Ford said in a state­ment. “But our gov­ern­ment also be­lieves that in­di­vid­u­als have per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity with re­spect to their own well-be­ing.”

Last week, Tory leg­is­la­tor Prab­meet Sarkaria tabled a bill to amend the High­way Traf­fic Act to al­low the hel­met ex­emp­tion, but the gov­ern­ment said Wed­nes­day it would be bring­ing about the change through a reg­u­la­tion.

“I have been call­ing for a hel­met ex­emp­tion for tur­baned On­tario Sikh mo­tor­cy­clists for sev­eral years now,” Sarkaria said in a state­ment. “The wear­ing of the tur­ban is an es­sen­tial part of the Sikh faith and iden­tity, and ex­emp­tions for Sikhs have been suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented in other prov­inces in Canada and across the world.”

Tur­baned Sikhs are al­ready ex­empt from wear­ing mo­tor­cy­cle hel­mets in Al­berta, Man­i­toba and Bri­tish Columbia.

The United King­dom im­ple­mented a mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met ex­emp­tion for Sikhs in 1976, the On­tario gov­ern­ment noted.

Ford said the move to al­low the hel­met ex­emp­tion came af­ter lis­ten­ing to the Sikh com­mu­nity. He also said it ful­filled a prom­ise made dur­ing the spring elec­tion cam­paign.

The Sikh Mo­tor­cy­cle Club of On­tario wel­comed the gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment. “Soon we will have a right to ride with our pride,” it said in a Face­book post.

On­tario’s pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment had re­sisted calls for the ex­emp­tion, say­ing that rel­e­vant aca­demic re­search and le­gal de­ci­sions sup­ported not grant­ing it to Sikh mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ers be­cause it would pose a road safety risk.

Ray­nald Marc­hand, gen­eral man­ager of pro­grams at the Canada Safety Coun­cil, called the hel­met ex­emp­tion “dis­ap­point­ing” but not sur­pris­ing since Ford had been sig­nalling the move for months.

“The main im­pli­ca­tion is that we’re go­ing to get peo­ple who will get hurt,” he said. “There’s no ques­tion that if they do fall, (a tur­ban) will not pro­vide the pro­tec­tion that a hel­met would pro­vide.”

Marc­hand, an ex­pert in mo­tor­cy­cle safety, said the ex­emp­tion should be granted to tur­ban-wear­ing Sikhs only af­ter they re­ceive their full mo­tor­cy­cle li­cences, not dur­ing train­ing.

“They are most vul­ner­a­ble at the learn­ing stage,” he said. “They might also find that wear­ing a hel­met is ac­tu­ally a pretty good thing.”


Mem­bers of the Sikh Mo­tor­cy­cle Club are re­flected in a fel­low mem­ber’s sunglasses dur­ing the an­nual Vaisakhi pa­rade in Van­cou­ver on April 16, 2016. On­tario will soon al­low tur­ban-wear­ing Sikhs to ride mo­tor­cy­cles with­out hel­mets, join­ing three other prov­inces in pro­vid­ing the ex­emp­tion.

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