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Ontario Court ruled: Sikhs cannot drive motorcycles without helmets.
Judge dismiss a challenge of NRI Sikh Baljinder Singh Badesha

Toronto, March 13, 2008
Dr. Satbir Singh

Judge James Blacklock of Ontario Court has ruled that Sikhs in Ontario province cannot drive motorcycles without helmets. Judge gave his ruling, dismissing a challenge by NRI Sikh Baljinder Singh Badesha who was fined $110 in 2005 for driving his motorcycle without a helmet.

The 35 pages judgment was also distributed to the media before the judge's ruling. The judge said:

  • The evidence before me shows that to ride a motorcycle helmetless involves the imposition of significant extra risks related to safety.
  • The Highway Traffic Act allowed no "accommodation" in Badesha's case as helmets saved lives in highway crashes.
  • Allowing motorcyclists to drive without helmets posed undue hardship for the authorities to ensure safety on roads
  • Mr. Badesha must pay the $110 ticket amount within a month

Badesha has 15 days to appeal Blacklock's decision. Badesha said he would like the Ontario legislature to consider changing the policy and allow Sikhs to wear their turbans on motorcycles.

To media people outside the courthouse, Badesha said he need some time to decide whether to appeal. He laughed about the decision and said he was "okay" with it

Is Helmet law really discriminates against Sikhs driving motorcycle in Ontario

  • NRI Sikh challenges Ontario motorcycle regulations
  • In 2005, Baljinder Badesha was charged and fighting against a $110 fine
  • General accidents can cost the public purse up to $2.4 million, while medical treatment for traumatic brain injuries fatal crashes can cost almost $20 million.

Toronto, Feb., 20, 2008
Dr. Satbir Singh

NRI Baljinder Badesha, 39, was was charged in 2005, when he drove Honda Shadow around 110 kilometers an hour. He is a father of four children who immigrated to Canada in 1989.

India, Hong Kong and Britain allow Sikhs to wear their turbans on motorcycles. Sikhs had already got exemptions in British Columbia and Manitoba.

Mr. Badesha's lawyer, Mel Sokosky said:

  • His client is far too religious to consider compromising his beliefs. This is a matter of primary importance to Mr. Badesha
  • Mr. Badesha's desire is not a trivial pursuit. This is not a game he is playing. He isn't here to waste the court's time.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission's lawyer Owen Rees said:

  • Obliged to wear turbans outside the home, devout Sikhs who want to ride motorcycles are effectively forbidden from a "normal social activity available to all other Ontarians
  • What the state is saying to Mr. Badesha is you have to choose between your religious beliefs or (abstain) in order to ride the motorbike
  • The helmet requirement under the province's Highway Traffic Act "discriminates" against Badesha because it violates his constitutional rights

The human rights commission maintain the helmet law discriminates against Sikhs because their religion obliges them to cover their long hair with nothing more than a turban.

Scott Hutchison, who also represents the commission, argued the seatbelt law makes exemptions for disabled people who cannot wear them but still need to drive.

Mr. Badesha said:

  • My religion says we cannot put anything over our turban.
  • I like to ride the motorcycles, so that's why we fight the case.
  • I have not ridden my motorcycle since I was ticketed in 2005, played down the risks involved in riding helmet-free.
  • Who cares?. Everybody ends up dead anyway. People die in cars too. In life, you have to take risks, no matter what.

Keep in mind, these turbaned Sikhs fought in the two world wars against fascism sporting those turbans and they always welcomed to wear turbans. Sikh soldiers have never worn helmets, and argued that Sikhs should be left alone to make their own decisions about motorcycle gear.

Crown lawyer Michael Dunn said:

  • They did not contest Badesha's religious beliefs, they remained un swayed by the argument that denying non-helmeted riders access to motorcycles violates the Constitution.
  • Riding a motorcycle, that is significantly different than the interests that have been found to be viola ted... in other cases

General accidents can cost the public purse up to $2.4 million, while medical treatment for traumatic brain injuries fatal crashes can cost almost $20 million.

Ontario Court Judge James Blacklock was told yesterday that, in order to disprove a Crown theory that turbans unravel at high speed and cause accidents,

According to the local news paper, Mr. Hutchison said the Cayuga turban test became necessary after the Crown declared that an expert it had hired proved that turbans unravel rapidly in 100 km/h winds.The Crown's test had been carried out by a professional engineer who purchased a mannequin head, mounted it on a stick and then placed the assemblage in a wind tunnel. However, Mr. Hutchison was unable to find a documented case anywhere in the world where a Sikh motorcyclist's turban had unraveled. Skeptical, he persuaded the OHRC to authorize its own test. After he confronted the Crown with the dramatically different test result, prosecutors conceded that their engineer had grossly miscalculated the force of the wind he had generated to batter the imitation head, Mr. Hutchison said.

Mr. Badesha drove around Cayuga Speedway at 110 kilometers an hour. He did laps at 110 km/h to prove turban held tight


Baljinder Singh Badesha, outside court yesterday, has lost his legal challenge that being forced to wear a motorcycle helmet infringes on his freedom of religion.
(Michael Peake/Sun Media) . Toronto Sun