Canadian Sikh group seeks turban exemption to Ontario helmet law


A group of Canadian Sikhs is challenging Ontario’s provincial helmet law, saying it violates their freedom of religion because helmets don’t accommodate their religiously proscribed turbans.

The issue pits religious freedom against public safety, and has become a hot button for a provincial election set for Oct. 6. Candidates appear to be lining up largely along liberal and conservative party lines, based on their comments to the Waterloo Record.

Among other religious requirements, most Sikhs are forbidden by doctrine to cut, shave, trim or remove body hair. Men are also required to wear turbans.

Some of the Sikh community has started a petition for an exemption to the helmet law, and the Canadian Sikh Association has been holding town meetings to discuss the matter. Many of those who attend have said they would buy motorcycles if the exemption is granted. Two other provinces, British Columbia and Manitoba, have granted such exemptions, but an Ontario Superior Court Justice dismissed a challenge to that province’s law in 2008.

Posted by Holly Wagner

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