The Sikh motorcycle club led the procession as the Penticton Sikh Temple celebrated Vaisakhi with a Nagar Kirtan procession. Steve Kidd/Western News

Ontario government to allow Sikhs to ride motorcycles without helmets

The exemption — which goes into effect Oct. 18 — will recognize Sikh motorcycle riders’ civil rights and religious expression

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.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Province announces $23 million for upgrades at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital

West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District Board has yet to review the provincial proposal

UPDATE: Two-car accident closes Highway 3A at Thrums

Road expected to open for single-lane alternating traffic at 2 p.m.

OPINION: Florio Vassilakakis calls city tax increase ‘overly ambitious’

One city councillor’s take on the City of Castlegar’s proposed budget

Castlegar moves towards allowing more in-home childcare spaces

If passed, bylaw will increase the maximum number of children allowed to match provincial standards.

Call a foul on cancer with the Pink Whistle Campaign

Local basketball referees are raising money for cancer research

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Most Read