Canadian Province Alberta Exempts Turban-Wearing Sikhs from Helmet Rule
The exemption to the rule was announced last week and will be effective from mid-April.
In a big win for the Sikh community in Canada, Alberta has become the third province in the country to legally allow followers of the faith to ride motorcycles without helmet, according to reports. Manitoba and British Columbia were the first two provinces to allow turban-wearing Sikhs to ride motorcycles without helmet. The exemption to the rule, which made helmet wearing mandatory in Canada, was made last week in Alberta, and will be effective starting on April 12.
The amendment to the Traffic Safety Act was made by an order from the local Transportation Minister Brian Mason. Mason was approached by the Sikh community for this exemption to be granted in recognition of their civil and religious rights. The community has been pitching for this for three decades. The rule applies to drivers and pillion riders over the age of 18 years.
“We think that the number of people who will be wearing a turban and not a helmet is going to be very small. So we decided on the balance that this was the right thing to do,” Mason said in a statement.
Alberta has the third-highest Sikh population in Canada – 52,335 people, according to the 2011 census.
The decision was met with ecstasy from members of the Sikh community, many of whom were not able to ride motorcycles since they would be asked to remove their turban. “It really means a whole lot more than I can even explain with words how it feels to be accepted wholeheartedly as you are, as opposed to thinking, ‘Hey, it’s just a turban why can’t you put it off to the side?’,” Gurpeet Pandher of the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Edmonton said to the RideApart website.
However, a motorcyclist will have to identify as Sikh to ride without the helmet. If a traffic officer does not believe him, a ticket can be issued. This ticket can be challenged in court.
Not everyone is happy though. “ The reality is this is going to put people’s lives at risk and it’s something that unfortunately didn’t get debated publicly. It’s beyond my comprehension in 2018 that we’re even having this discussion,” Dr. Louis Francescutti, an emergency room physician and motorcyclist, told RideApart.
When the Sikh community petitioned for the same exemption in Ontario in 2014, they were soundly denied. “After careful deliberation, we have determined that we will not grant this type of exemption as it would pose a road safety risk. Ultimately, the safety of Ontarians is my utmost priority, and I cannot justify setting that concern aside on this issue,” Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a letter to the CBC in 2014.