Helmet or Turban?

Dustin Woods
by Dustin Woods

Heated debate between religion and safety

There are few topics of discussion that can create more separation and conflict than religion or politics, unless of course you manage to combine religion and politics. That is precisely what happened in Ontario, Canada when a devout Sikh by the name of Baljinder Badesha decided to wear his turban instead of approved head protection while riding his motorcycle.

Badesha was handed a $110 ticket for riding without a helmet northwest of Toronto. His defense was that his religion forbids him from covering his turban and he shouldn’t be made to choose between his faith and his motorcycle.

While most people scoffed at the stupidity of the situation, fellow Sikh motorcyclists were outraged by what they called a “devastating precedent against minorities.” The 39 year-old father of four was supported by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which challenged the constitutional validity of the province’s Highway Traffic Act.

Although Ontario Court Justice James Blacklock claimed that he sided with the defendant’s right to religious freedom in this matter, he then added that, “the benefit that society gains in possible reduced health costs from him wearing a helmet trumps those rights.” The ticket was upheld and Badesha was responsible for paying the fine, in addition to the court fees accrued. His ultimate goal was to see the Ontario legislature grant an exemption for Sikh motorcyclists, but no such luck.

It isn’t discrimination, it’s the law, and laws exist for a reason. In this case the law is to prevent motorcyclists from spilling their brains all over the Province’s highways. While many riders may oppose the ruling, it should be the same for each individual no matter what their race or religion. If you don’t want to follow the law, then that is your prerogative, but by doing so you should be prepared to accept the consequences for your actions.

Dustin Woods
Dustin Woods

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