Why not ex­empt all mo­tor­cy­clists from hel­met law?

Toronto Sun - - COMMENT -

Since Premier Doug Ford is bring­ing in leg­is­la­tion to ex­empt Sikh mo­tor­cy­clists from wear­ing hel­mets, he should take the next log­i­cal and fair step and ex­empt hel­mets for every­one.

Ex­clud­ing Sikhs from hel­met laws on the grounds of giv­ing them a re­li­gious ex­emp­tion smacks of ex­actly the same iden­tity pol­i­tics Ford and the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives con­stantly rail against in other con­texts.

To us, every­one rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle should wear a hel­met, just as every­one in a car should wear a seat­belt, for one sim­ple rea­son — safety.

Years ago, when Sikhs were lob­by­ing for the right to wear tur­bans as po­lice of­fi­cers and soldiers, the Toronto Sun sup­ported them for two rea­sons.

First, this was a rea­son­able re­li­gious ac­com­mo­da­tion that did not in­volve safety.

Sec­ond, we be­lieved de­vout Sikhs should not be pro­hib­ited from serv­ing their coun­try — ei­ther as po­lice of­fi­cers or soldiers — be­cause of their reli­gion.

To­day, rightly so, this isn’t even an is­sue, as ev­i­denced by the fact fed­eral De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan, a dec­o­rated Cana­dian war vet­eran, served in Bos­ni­aHerze­gov­ina and Afghanistan, while wear­ing a tur­ban.

Rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle, how­ever is a dif­fer­ent is­sue.

It’s not a right, it’s a priv­i­lege, and gov­ern­ments im­pose many re­stric­tions on any­one who wants to drive a mo­tor­cy­cle, car, or com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle, for rea­sons of safety.

Ob­vi­ously mo­tor­cy­clists not wear­ing hel­mets are go­ing to be more vul­ner­a­ble to se­ri­ous head in­juries than peo­ple who do, pos­si­bly re­sult­ing in higher in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums and greater ex­pense to our pub­licly funded medi­care sys­tem.

But if the On­tario gov­ern­ment’s not con­cerned about that for Sikhs, then it shouldn’t be con­cerned about if for any­one else.

As Ford him­self said last week in mak­ing this an­nounce­ment: “The safety of our roads will al­ways re­main a pri­or­ity.

But our gov­ern­ment also be­lieves that in­di­vid­u­als have per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity with re­spect to their own well-be­ing.”

Fair enough.

If On­tario’s new Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment be­lieves that a hel­met ex­emp­tion for Sikhs is war­ranted be­cause it

“be­lieves that in­di­vid­u­als have per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity with re­spect to their own well­be­ing” then why is it con­fin­ing this ex­emp­tion to Sikhs?

Ex­tend it to every­one driv­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle as long as they meet all of the gov­ern­ment’s other qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Un­der that fair and con­sis­tent law, no one would be pre­vented from wear­ing a hel­met if they wanted to, and all mo­tor­cy­clists would then be equally ac­count­able and re­spon­si­ble “with re­spect to their own well-be­ing”, which is what Ford said he sup­ports.

It’s true, as Ford notes, that three other prov­inces — Bri­tish Columbia, Man­i­toba and Al­berta — grant Sikhs a re­li­gious ex­emp­tion from wear­ing hel­mets on mo­tor­cy­cles, but that doesn’t mean Ford should be pass­ing un­fair laws in On­tario be­cause other prov­inces did.

The fair so­lu­tion is ob­vi­ous. If Sikhs are go­ing to be ex­empted from wear­ing mo­tor­cy­cle hel­mets, all On­tar­i­ans should have the same priv­i­lege.


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