Ontario to exempt Sikh motorcyclists from helmet law

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Sikhs who wear turbans will be allowed to ride motorcycles in Ontario without helmets starting Oct. 18.

Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday his Progressive Conservatives are changing regulations under the Highway Traffic Act to fulfil an election promise on a helmet exemption, which the previous Liberal government refused to do for safety reasons despite years of lobbying from the Canadian Sikh Association.

Members of the Sikh Motorcycle Club are reflected in a fellow member's sunglasses during the annual Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver on April 16, 2016. Ontario will allow turban-wearing Sikhs to ride motorcycles without helmets starting Oct. 18, Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday.
Members of the Sikh Motorcycle Club are reflected in a fellow member’s sunglasses during the annual Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver on April 16, 2016. Ontario will allow turban-wearing Sikhs to ride motorcycles without helmets starting Oct. 18, Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday.  (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

“The safety of our roads will always remain a priority,” Ford said in a statement. “But our government also believes that individuals have personal accountability and responsibility with respect to their own well-being.”

Ford’s announcement follows last week’s introduction of a private members’ bill in the Legislature to amend the Highway Traffic Act by Brampton South MPP Prabmeet Sarkaria, the parliamentary assistant to Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Michael Tibollo.

“The wearing of the turban is an essential part of the Sikh faith and identity,” Sarkaria said.

Turbans do not fit under most helmets.

British Columbia, Manitoba and Alberta already have helmet exemptions for Sikh motorcyclists, as does the United Kingdom.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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