Judge rules against Sikh challenge of helmet law
Last Updated: Thursday, March 6, 2008 | 10:57 AM ET Comments63Recommend103CBC News
A judge in Brampton, Ont., rejected a human rights challenge to an Ontario law on Thursday, ruling that motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding on the highway because safety concerns outweigh the rights of religious minorities.
Ontario court of justice Judge James Blacklock ruled against a challenge to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act that had been launched by Baljinder Badesha, a devout Sikh who was fined $110 in 2005 for not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. He was wearing a turban instead.
Badesha refused to pay the fine, arguing that the law was discriminatory because it violated his religious rights.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission had supported his position, saying the issue was about religious accommodation.
Blacklock said "no accommodation appears possible" under the law because there is no question that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries suffered by motorcyclists in crashes.
He said allowing Badesha, along with other Sikh motorcyclists, to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet would put "undue hardship" on the province to maintain safety standards.
The ruling is contrary to other rulings on the same issue in B.C., Manitoba, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and India.
Exemptions were made in those jurisdictions for Sikh motorcyclists, allowing devout Sikhs to wear turbans instead of helmets.
Badesha has 30 days to pay the $110 fine for not wearing a helmet while riding his motorcycle.