The Sikh motorcyclist who challenged Ontario’s helmet law has been told that the safety of his skull trumps his religious needs.
His case against the $110 ticket he got more than two years ago for not wearing a helmet was thrown out yesterday by Judge James Blacklock, who said serious head injuries would result if he exempted religious Sikhs from wearing helmets.
Baljinder Badesha, 39, argued that his religion prevents him from wearing anything on his head but a turban, and so the helmet law discriminated against him. The judge agreed, but said the additional health costs imposed on society and the additional suffering of relatives when a non-helmeted Sikh motorcyclist bangs his turban against a hydro pole were of greater importance.
"Given the nature of Mr. Baljinder Badesha’s beliefs, which foreclose him from wearing anything over his turban, and yet the unquestioned safety and related issues, this is one of those cases in which, unfortunately, no accommodation appears possible," the judge said.
Badesha’s lawyer said the additional health costs would be negligible, as estimates suggest that fewer than three unhelmeted Sikh riders a year would be involved in head injury crashes in Ontario. However, the judge essentially said that three head injuries is three too many. He referred to "devastation" that even one serious accident can cause in a family.
Badesha can still appeal the ruling, but for now, while Sikhs in Manitoba and British Columbia are exempted from wearing helmets while riding, in Ontario, helmets rule.