Much ado about…..


Safety Trumps Freedom of Religion! At Least on a Motorcycle.

Posted by gottabkd on Thursday, March 6, 2008

A couple of years ago a Brampton man was charged with not wearing a motorcycle helmet. He was issued a $110 ticket and his motorcycle was impounded. I bet the police thought they would never hear from him again.
But the man decided to fight the ticket in court. He felt the law was “infringing on his freedom of religion“.
The man is, after all, is a Sikh who wears a turban, a turban which the Sikh religion forbids him to remove.


Caption reads: Gear
Because walking away in disgust,
Beats riding away in an ambulance.

The (Ontario) law, the helmet wearing law, was set for the safety of the rider, all riders of the two wheel version, the snowmobile version and the four wheel off-road version of vehicles.
Yet this man decided to challenge this law in the courts of Ontario. I suppose he felt he had a good case, after all Canada has been known to change their laws (or rules) to be “all inclusive of peoples religious freedoms“. So much so that Canada’s RCMP uniform was changed to accommodate turban wearing, a move that also encouraged more people of the Sikh religion to join the RCMP. They also needed more minorities to join the forces… however.. this is different…
There is no safety being compromised if a RCMP officer wears a turban instead of the official police cap, a cap that is just part of the uniform. There is a safety issue, if you do not wear a helmet while driving a motorcycle, especially if you get into an accident. It’s the law for a reason, at least in Ontario, and a law with stats that show, helmet wearing does save lives.

Two other provinces, British Columbia and Manitoba, have already made concessions for turban wearing riders that allows Sikh’s to NOT wear a helmet. Really?

So this man who emigrated from another country, thought he could get away without wearing a helmet, probably because that is what they do back home, who thinks the law is wrong, thought he would challenge the law in court hoping to win. He even got the The Ontario Human Rights Commission involved and they argued that this law violated his constitutional rights. Um, what about our constitutional rights to have laws that make safety a priority?

However, a ruling was passed today by a Brampton Judge where he found “Safety trumps freedom of religion period. The judge believed that not wearing a helmet could cause undue hardship on the system namely the one that would try to save his life should he get into an accident while riding his bike…End of judgment.
The man indicated that he would follow the ruling and will not break the law any further. When he was asked by a reporter where the motorcycle is now he responded that “they still have it but would you like to buy it from me?”

Clearly this man is taking it all in stride, but he also has the right to appeal the ruling, which could possibly be overturned in a higher court. That is a scary proposition but that is the system. You see, as a Canadian, he has the right to fight the ruling. Only time will tell if he appeals, or if another judge overturns the ruling.

When I questioned my buddies who ride, about this situation, most said that safety is the factor and the law is, well the law. They too are safety oriented…. When pressed more, their true feelings came out. Most said to me along the lines of:

“Here’s the thing… People immigrate here all the time. They come from varying countries with varying views on religion and customs. They bring their language and never learn English. Some even live here for 30 to 50 years and die here having never learned to speak English. If they were to go to this guy’s country, they would be expected to learn their languages, abide by their laws while trying to fit in to their way of life. It’s not right for them to not try to assimilate to our country!”

My friends belong to families who emigrated here, yet they themselves were born here. So they know both sides of the coin.
Most agreed that this is not what a great number of immigrants do when they come here. They do not try to assimilate without forcing un us, their languages, customs or beliefs. In fact they do things like this guy and then try to challenge our laws in order for change to benefit them, all because of their beliefs, without regard for anyone else or the history of our laws.
Most indicated it was shameful and they hoped the judge would rule correctly. So far this judge did, he apparently did not waver with his ruling and probably figured if this guy really wants to fight it, then let him spend the time and money and take it to a higher court. That is they way of the courts here. If it’s too hot to handle, a judge will pass a ruling knowing that it can then be challenged in a higher court, a court out of his jurisdiction, and the system protects us by allowing an appeal to a higher court.

But is this more than that?
On the radio today, people were wanting to know where they too could get a turban, how they could get around the law, while also making fun of the of the excuse of religion.
My question(s) is this: If a higher court overturns this ruling, how fair is it to the rest of us. Should people with big heads be allowed to NOT wear a helmet? If so I should have fought for this when they did not make helmets big enough to fit my large head and all my hair.
Should these exceptions then limit the CC size of the engines these people can buy? After all, the bikes are bigger and faster here than in the middle East, no?
Should they be restricted to not being allowed driving privileges on the 400 series of highways?
How does one ensure that the turban will stay secure at high speeds and not become a blanket on the car window behind the rider? Curious minds want to know, seriously?
When did driving a car or riding a motorcycle become a right? It’s a privilege, a privilege that comes with rules, regulations and laws. If you want to drive, follow them!

I dunno.. personally I do not think the law should be amended, but that is because I spent 20 years promoting safe riding. On the other hand, if Sikhs believe they should be allowed to ride without helmets and they are willing to risk their lives driving Gixers and alphabet bikes, I say let ’em. I do not think it’s fair to the rest of us nor fair to the hospital system that would put them back together again, but what can you do? Canadians have rights and Canada has a system that ensures you can fight for your right(s), whatever you believe they are.

What do you think of this issue?? Leave a comment and let’s open up the discussion.

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2 Responses to “Safety Trumps Freedom of Religion! At Least on a Motorcycle.”

  1. Chinda said

    That guy on the motor bike is being a complete idiot. My fiance is a traditional sikh. The religion only requires you to wear a sword(now optional), bracelet, underwear,comb, and never cut your hair. The turban itself is interchangeable, as long as you cover your head you’re good to go. Even the sikh army wears a traditional helmet instead of their turbans, while keeping their long hair in a bun underneath the helmet.

  2. gottabkd said

    Hello Chinda,

    You are absolutetly correct, both about the army and the helmut. But my issue is truly with Canada as a nation. One that is so liberal in changing the system to “accommadate” an individuals beliefs that it allows people to even even think this stuff up and challenge a system that does not “accommadate” them.

    We already have laws and regulations and everyone needs to comply with them, especially where safety is concerned.
    Sure some outdated laws need to be modified, but this particular one is there to protect the rider. And yes Canada likes to welcome other cultures which creates our diversity, but it is not always a good thing to challenge certain laws of another country, just because you suddenly believe your human rights/religious belliefs are being impeded… I mean seriously…. get a life, wear a smaller turbon or don’t ride… simple really…

    Thanks for the input 🙂

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