What is more important: Religious belief or safety? The issue has been around for a while and has recently resurfaced in Canada.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has ruled against turban-wearing Sikhs being exempt from wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle saying that safety is the utmost priority.
It follows a $100 fine given to Sikh Baljinder Badesha who rode without a helmet.
The Premier claims that in jurisdictions with mandatory helmet laws, death rates in motorcycle accidents have gone down 30% and head injuries down by 75%. Ontario has a mandatory helmet law which the courts have found doesn’t infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The Canadian Sikh Association says the decision is “deeply” disappointing.
In 2013, a Queensland court ruled that a turban-wearing Sikh didn’t need to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, but that ruling has not yet been tested for the use of riding motorcycles!
Another similar issue is the right of fuel station operators to require motorcycle riders to remove their helmets before fuelling for “safety reasons”, yet they can’t require Muslim women wearing a hijab to unveil their faces. (Actually, it’s not really a safety issue at all, but an issue of identifying people in case they “do a runner” without paying.)
So, is safety more important than religious freedom? Or should there be legal exemptions based on religious rites?