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(Mar 02, 2008) In a decision released on March 6, 2008, that has not yet been formally reported, W. James Blacklock of the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton, Ontario, ruled that a Sikh motorcyclist could not be exempted from the province's law requiring the wearing of helmets on the grounds that it violated his religious freedoms (Ont. Court of Justice, Brampton, Mar. 6, 2008). The judge found that an exemption would place an undue hardship on the province, because of the costs that are incurred by the provincial health program in treating serious head injuries and ordered the defendant to pay the ticket he had been issued for riding without a helmet. The defendant, Balinder Badesha, had been supported by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in his constitutional challenge. Elsewhere in Canada, both British Columbia and Manitoba exempt Sikhs from helmet laws on the grounds that their religion forbids them from covering their turbans.

Sikhs have successfully sued Canadian governments for the right to wear their turbans where headgear is prohibited or other types of headgear have been prescribed in a number of cases. In recent years, they have gained the right to wear their turbans with their military and Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniforms. The judge in the case at hand distinguished these cases on the grounds that the helmet law was designed to reduce significant safety risks. The lawyer representing the defendant indicated that his client would consider appealing the Ontario Court of Justice ruling. (Sikh Loses Helmet Fight, THE STAR, Mar. 6, 2008, available at http://www.thestar.com/article/310015.)

Author: Stephen Clarke More by this author
Topic: Church and state relations More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Canada More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 03/02/2008