Starting next Thursday, Sikhs will no longer be required to wear helmets on motorcycles.
The announcement was made yesterday in a joint conference hosted by Ontario premier Doug Ford and Prabmeet Sarkaria, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
“We promised to establish a helmet exemption for Sikh motorcyclists,” said Premier Ford. “Today we are taking action to fulfill that promise. We listened to the Sikh community and we intend to exempt them from the requirement to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.”
The issue, of course, is that helmets often don’t fit over turbans, which the Sikh community consider an essential part of their faith and identity. The Sikh community has been lobbying for a helmet reprieve for years, though always at the refusal of the previous Liberal government on the basis of safety concerns.
Ontario isn’t the first province or jurisdiction to enact such an exemption for Sikh motorcyclists. British Columbia passed a helmet exemption in 1999), Manitoba in 2000, and Alberta in 2018. The United Kingdom, implemented the motorcycle helmet exemption for Sikhs in 1976.
It should be noted that motorcycle helmets reduce fatalities by 37 per cent and head injuries by 67 per cent, according non-profit Canada Safety Council.