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Monday, March 17, 2008

Sikh, backers to appeal motorcycle helmet ruling

A turban-wearing Sikh who has lost his battle to ride a motorcycle without a helmet has said he will appeal the decision.

Backed by the local Sikh community, Brampton's Baljinder Badesha, 39, said he plans to challenge the constitutionality of the law, rather than focusing his fight solely on the ticket he received for not wearing a helmet in 2005.

"This time I will not fight for myself, but I will challenge Ontario's law in the larger interests of all Sikhs who want to ride a bike," Badesha said.

Community members met last weekend at a local gurdwara to discuss the March 6 ruling. Badesha, supported by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, had argued the law forces him to choose between his religion and his love of riding a motorcycle because his faith does not allow him to cover his turban or remove it outside of his home.

The court ruled safety is paramount and refused to allow an exemption. However, Ontario Court Justice James Blacklock said his decision does not preclude the provincial government from making a policy change that would allow for an exemption for all Sikhs.

Badesha was found guilty of the Highway Traffic Act violation and ordered to pay a $110 fine.

"We are confident of winning the battle this time," Badesha said. "We don't believe a helmet is safe. Every day riders with helmets die in accidents. If I'm supposed to die today, I will die and nothing can save me."

The Ottawa-based World Sikh Organization of Canada has expressed disappointment at the court's decision. "A turban is an important Sikh article of faith that shouldn't be covered by any other object," it said. [Link]

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