Sikh motorcyclist in Canada challenges helmet verdict

March 18th, 2008 - 11:13 am ICT by admin  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, March 18 (IANS) A local Sikh motorcyclist has challenged a lower court verdict which upheld the Ontario Highway Traffic Act that forbids him from driving without a helmet in Canada’s largest province. Brampton-based Baljinder Singh Badesha had challenged the helmet rule in court after he was fined $110 for driving his motorcycle without helmet in 2005.

He argued that the rule discriminated against him on religious grounds as his Sikh faith does not allow him to wear a helmet over his turban.

Dismissing his challenge March 7, the court upheld the helmet rule, saying that riding a motorcycle helmetless posed huge risks. It said the Highway Traffic Act allowed no “accommodation” in Badesha’s case as helmets saved lives in highway crashes.

Thirty-nine-year-old Badesha, supported by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, challenged the ruling in the Brampton court Monday.

“Let us see how long it takes now. We are told that it may take up to six months for the case to come up again. We are ready for any length of wait,” Badesha told IANS after filing the petition.

“The helmet rule violates the spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which allows me to practise my religion. We are challenging the ruling on other grounds as well,” he said.

Badesha said the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has assured him their support.

“It is not my case. It is a case for the while community, and the SGPC has said they will send their letter of support soon.”

Meanwhile, local Sikh organisations, gurudwaras and individuals have promised to support Badesha in his legal battle.

At a meeting at the Dixie Road gurudwara Saturday, which was also attended by Indo-Canadian MPP (member of provincial parliament) Kuldip Kular and Councillor Vicky Dhillon, the community decided to raise money for Badesha in his fight to change the helmet rule.

“Attendees have already promised $40,000 for this legal battle, and more money will flow in. We are committed to winning this just battle,” said Sikh leader Nachhattar Singh Chohan after the meeting.

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