Alberta allows helmet exemption for Sikh riders

Alberta is about to become the third Canadian province to allow Sikh motorcyclists to ride without a helmet.

The change to the province’s Traffic Safety Act will allow Sikh riders to wear their turban instead of a helmet, and comes into effect in April 12. Under the new rules, a motorcyclist must self-identify as a Sikh to ride like this, but if a traffic enforcement officer does not believe this is the case, the officer may still issue a ticket, requiring the rider to prove their case in court.

Manitoba and BC have already granted helmet exemptions to Sikhs, and Sikh riders have been asking for an exemption in Ontario for years. Despite backing from many politicians, that exemption hasn’t been granted yet.

Wearing a turban, or dastaar, is one of the most recognized parts of Sikh culture around the world, leaving many Sikh riders with the choice between wearing their turban or following traffic laws.


  1. Soon Canada will be a third world nation just like the places these people are running from. If we continue to cater to people from third world nations the lifestyle of the West will be comparable to that of any other third world.
    Changing to suit others will be the fall of the Western civilization.

    I fell we should welcome anyone looking for a better life into our Country as last no as they understand that they must follow our rules and laws.
    These rules and laws are why our Country is so great.
    Changing these rules and laws is a major mistake.

    Immigrants must change not our laws.

    • Indeed…simple pandering.
      Analogy: If my religious beliefs include celibacy prior to marriage, yet allows the occasional alcoholic beverage, should I be able to shut down a peeler bar since it’s against my religious beliefs to look at nude women while enjoying a Bud Lite at Tony’s VIP Gentlemen’s Club?? Adhering to religious tenets is a personal choice and automatically excludes the faithful from certain activities that would be in violation of those same tenets…not being involved in activities that violate your ‘beliefs’ is called exercising ‘faith’. Ergo, forcing political change in an attempt to change laws to adapt to your beliefs is anything but ‘faithful worship’. Hilarious.

        • Wouldn’t think of it Andy! And, if I ever I did, I’d fully expect my imminent, and well deserved eye gouging…(btw…MotoGP race direction needs their eyes gouged after that debacle in Argentina…smh)

  2. I’m not Canadian, so help me out…. If Sikh bikers don’t have to wear helmets, what about all your nudist bikers. 🙂 🙂

  3. I don’t know why any one cares about this other than prejudice. Does it affect you in any way??? no, who cares then. I don’t care if anyone wears a helmet or seat belt, don’t care if you want to run down the sidewalk with your hair on fire or your turban, just try not to set the grass on fire.
    The whole public insurance argument is a non starter as people do multiple things daily that are not in their best interest and or dangerous to their health, not to mention some would argue you have no need to ride a motorcycle at all if you are going to be covered by public insurance.
    Moving on.

    • It’s got nothing to do with prejudice. I just think there should be one rule for everyone, and if these guys can choose to ride without a helmet, then anyone else who wants to should be able to, also. Just a matter of principle.

    • Well, since you don’t have the brains to figure it out yourself, let me help you out a bit here. Emergency medical services and surgery are paid for by the public, and helmet laws were instituted in order to prevent catastrophic head injuries caused by accidents. If you are so insistent on protecting the so-called “freedoms” of Sikhs to keep their turbans on while riding, then I suggest that YOU PAY FOR ALL FUTURE MEDICAL COSTS of injured turban-wearing Sikhs. Then it just might begin to dawn on you why “anyone cares about this”.

  4. I didn’t think that religion would come before safety in Canada. Some politicians have no balls.
    Helmets are there to protect your head .
    When your on a construction site you must wear a hard hat it is law in Canada
    Now does this mean that if they get into an accident they still get full coverage just like me but I am obligated to wear a DOT helmet????

  5. This looks like a case of pandering to me. Pandering to the Sikh community to get votes.

    According to the story, this now means that police officers and judges will be deciding whether people are truly Sikhs or not. I think having the government make judgments about whether one is a true believer in a given religion, and the dictates of that religion, is entirely wrong-headed, and in fact goes against the concept of a secular society with freedom of religion.

    Also, if there are accommodations to be made, it seems to me that the Sikh riders should first attempt to accommodate the law. Can they really not wear a helmet at all? Could they not remove their turban and don their helmet in private, and similarly at the other end of the ride.

    Let’s not forget, to follow a religion and all of its dictates is a CHOICE. Nobody is forced to be a Sikh, nor to adhere to its rules.

  6. What a tough one. Perhaps someone could come up with a DOT Turban. 🙂

    Instead of making a blanket law covering the whole religion, I suggest a per-case basis where you can go and get an exemption. That way it is regulated on an individual basis. Some Rastafarian dreads can’t exactly fit a helmet either.

    That is all I really wanted to say, and I was going delete the rest of this as it turned out to be a bit of a rant and I managed to fit in the environment and sexism as well, but hey, maybe it will be entertaining for some, so I’ll leave it.

    Personally I don’t need a helmet law to wear one (helmet not turban). The protective effect of helmets was about a 42 percent reduction in risk of death in a crash and 69 percent for risk of a head injury in a crash (Cochrane Review), that’s all I need to know. Having dinged my noggin more than once, I’ll never ride without one. Much like tax exemptions for religions, though, it will be possible to start a religion that involves the wearing of ball caps or other head gear, in order to skirt the helmet laws.

    The question becomes, “why do we have helmet laws in the first place?”
    We are a lazy species, we don’t like to think that we’ll need a helmet for a short trip to the store, or for a quiet country ride. We are too lazy to carry a helmet. We are too lazy to put the system in place to bring re-usable bags to the grocery store (you know you are), we are too lazy to bring a re-usable water container instead of buying plastic bottles.
    However, in many cases, if there is the added incentive of a law in place, we wear the helmet, and bring our reusable bags and bottles. It works. Laws work. We need them to get our lazy butts in gear. We have helmet laws because we care about each other, same reason we have public healthcare.

    Perhaps it would be better for the Sikh population to have a discussion about helmets and perhaps use the alternative they use for swimming and sports: ‘PATKA’

    Easy for me to say, as I haven’t gone through generations of fighting for my right to wear a turban…, I have empathy though, as women are still being legally fired or undermined for wearing flats instead of heels by some employers. And of course let’s not forget the countries that think they should legislate women’s head covers…

    So, I think a more reasonable solution is to keep the laws and allow exceptions on an individual basis, the exemption goes on your licence. It’s up to the law enforcers to decide if stopping the Sikh man with no helmet is in the public interest. Similar to seatbelt exemptions.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you Tammy; not wearing a good quality motorcycle helmet is an act of extreme stupidity and irresponsibility. The “but it’s my head” argument that is prevalent in motorcycling does not wash in a country with government health care. As taxpayers we all pay the bill for the aftermath of accidents of all types. I have been fortunate that I have never had a serious motorcycle accident (touch wood), but I did have a pretty good bicycling accident a few years back. I was going maybe 15 kilometers an hour when my front wheel hit a small pot-hole and I was thrown sideways.The torn up arm and badly gouged bicycle helmet was quite an eye-opener. The Bell helmet did it’s job, and my armed healed up, but I have to wonder how things would have turned out if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet. It makes me think of the damage that would have happened if I’d been on a motorcycle going at four or five times that speed.

      • Government health care looks after all people, both stupid people and people who like to judge others. Try another argument.

        • But, the fact that our health care is government funded is one of the main arguments in favour of helmet laws. Cost to society and all that blah, blah, blah. The government can’t (or at least shouldn’t be able to) have it both ways – say that we have this law for our own protection, and to mitigate the cost to society, and then say that it’s OK for some to ride without a helmet.

    • You raised some good points, and gave me the idea that any Sikh who wants to ride helmet-free should sign a waiver that abdicates any expectation of publicly-funded medical care incurred in the case of an accident, or perhaps even requires them to pay a deposit of $10 million to cover any future medical care, wage supplements or disability support needed as the result of an accident.

  7. The turban is not one of the five Ks and as such is not required to be worn at all times. It may be an inconvenience to put it back on after the ride. If it is really that important to appear to be wearing a turban while riding, maybe they should get a helmet manufacturer to produce one that looks like a turban. Military vets will confirm the turban was removed for ceremonial proceedings and show of respect in certain situations while in uniform. Trudeau and the Indian government may welcome it. For them, each accident will possibly result in one less potential Sikh terrorist. For the politicians granting the exemption, another group of the electorate that will help put them back in office. If your religion states your head should be bare before the deity you worship perhaps you also qualify for an exemption.

  8. I’mma born-n-raised cowboy, our heritage goes waaaay back. And yes, our family wears our cowboy hats to church!
    So, where is OUR rights?

  9. I thought Canada didn’t discriminate based upon religion. Why start now?

    Will the riders who get into accidents while not wearing an approved helmet still be eligible for public health care? Or will they have to pay their own bills?

    • I dunno, do fat people, smokers, heavy drinkers, bad drivers who get in accidents, people who don’t exercise, etc. have to pay their own bills?

        • But it’s still a crock Andy, cigarette taxes bring in a fraction of what smokers actually cost healthcare and everyone seems to be ok with it – to the point that we’ll soon be encouraging pot smoking now. And that’s what burns me – everything’s ok when the laws don’t affect them – so let my fat lazy accident prone smoking drinking ass cost the system whatever it’ll cost after all! But got forbid we let 14 Sikhs ride without a helmet! Gotta draw the line there eh?

          But I am ok with insurers charging them extra, that’s fair.

          • “But it’s still a crock Andy, cigarette taxes bring in a fraction of what smokers actually cost healthcare …”

            And, Rui, I agree with you. But, many non-smokers get lung or other cancers, so it is hard to regulate. No helmetless non-riders get their skulls smashed in from crashing a bike.

            Now, I have many problems with this, and unlike the rest here, I shall admit that one of my problems is racism. Yes. I have “Old-White-Guy” disease. ‘Why can’t they just be like us?’ But, why must they force the rest of Canada to change for their religious beliefs?

            You see, I am a Presbyterian (Note: God’s only true religion. Just ask him). Now, I do not believe in gambling, but I do not protest casinos. And sports on Sundays is a no-no. But, I do not demand any games I play be rescheduled. I just do not show up.

            So, what may we do about this? We COULD allow them to ride helmetless, and allow cops to be the final arbiter of the rider’s “Sikhyness.” But, who amongst us feels cops should even be allowed to vote? I mean, come on. Then there is the old illegal stop stuff. “What made you think Jagdish was pissed, ossifer?” “Well your majesty, I only pulled him over because he did not rock a helmet, and I noticed a distinct odour of booze that was not the Crown Royal I had that morning.”

            And, of course, there is the insurance premiums on which we both agree. So, we could insist that the riders pay up the helmetless premium in advance, and with proof, be issued a license plate or something to prominently display to allow the cops to see that the rider is a Sikh. You know. Like a yellow Star of David.


            Not that. Something different.

            But, that leads to all kinds of other problems. See the racism comment I made before; bikes parked at malls. Bigoted cops. People like that American chap last year that shot up the Sikh temple because he hated ISIS …

            So, why can’t I then just purchase this premium and ride helmetless? What’s that you say? I’m not a Sikh? Well, is that not race-based discrimination? And, is that not barred under the Charter Rights?

            So, Rui, what I am saying is the solution is best left to the Sikhs. Either don’t ride, or come up with a Sikh-approved helmet. After all, we do not allow them to take their little knives on aeroplanes.

            • The real question is if one tirban group (Sieks) gets to ride with out helmets, will the Canadians from other turban groups (Muslim) get the same rights.
              Will we see a red and white checkered tea towel with a fan belt going down the road on a Harley.
              Pakistani Turbans are different than Afghan ones. But a turban is a turban, so, where does the turban Law stop?

              “I brake for riders without helmets! “ ….Should not be a response to being concerned about the political use of exemptions,
              Jews were exempted from owning property, groups have been exempted from criminal actions,

              Use of exemption is subtle by the way.
              Eh: If you have a First Nations girl smash into your bike with Herald’s 3/4 Ton truck, and this is at the Morley Reserve, you will find she is not required to have a drivers license, Herald only needs insurance and license if he leaves the reserve, AND you cannot Sue for any damages.
              If no insurance is in place, and you have this happen you are on the hook for damages
              By the way, the RCMP had to interest on driver license or insurance violations, actually no interest I. Coming to the reserve!
              So remember the magic words to get the police to respond “ I think I may have run over a Squaw,”, which is a crazy thing to have to say to get a police response, eh?
              Really insulting actually.
              In Canmore they would respond to a similar accident and folks would be expected to be licensed & insured.

              So (helmet ) exemption for one group, is nothing new.
              I had my 1971 Bonneville Hit

              Tom from Canmore

        • +Andy gpfan ZING! Good comeback. Furthermore, helmetless riders should put up a hefty deposit to cover future potential medical costs and/or waive their right to tax-funded medical care.

  10. While I encourage immigration and believe whole-heartedly that immigrants are in large part responsible for Canada being the great country that it is, I cannot help but feel this exemption from helmet laws in certain provinces smacks of “favouritism” … the motorcycle helmet is a proven piece of safety equipment that ALL riders should and are expected under provincial laws to wear … except …
    The option to opt out of wearing a m/c helmet should not be available for a select few … if some folks don’t like that then don’t ride …

Join the conversation!