Sikh motorcyclist challenges turban ban in Canada

February 16th, 2008 - 11:34 am ICT by admin  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, Feb 16 (IANS) A Toronto area Sikh, who was fined for driving a motorcycle without a helmet, has taken his battle to court for his right to wear a turban. Baljinder Badesha, who owns a motorcycle dealership in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, was charged for the offence in Sept 2005 and fined $110. He has not driven a motorcycle even as part of test-driving at his dealership since then.

In moving the court, he says he wants to not only protect his religious right to wear the turban but also get the fine overturned.

Badesha, who appeared in court Friday, said the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allowed him to practice his Sikh religion. He said he knew that driving a motorcycle without a helmet on highways was a dangerous thing. But he was willing take that risk for his faith, he said.

The 39-year-old Sikh is being supported by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in his legal battle. Speaking for Badesha, Scott Hutchison of the Ontario Human Rights Commission said that denying him the religious right to wear the turban amounted to infringing on “his human dignity”.

He said Badesha cannot be forced to make a choice between his religion and participating in the normal life.

Scott added: “Roads and riding a motorcycle are something that is available to everybody in Ontario provided they wear a helmet. But that condition makes it impossible for Mr. Bedesha and everybody of the Sikh religion. That amounts to discrimination.”

However, Sikhs are allowed to wear a turban instead of a helmet while driving in the provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba.

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