A helmet exemption is not a religious accommodation

Why not exempt it for all individuals, not just for motorcyclists wearing turbans?

Premier Doug Ford has done it again. Ontario will join Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba in exempting helmets for turban-wearing Sikh motorcyclists.

The issue is so controversial that Ford held the news event in Brampton for Punjab media and ignored the Queen’s Park press corps.

In 2014, then-premier Kathleen Wynne faced a political and religious backlash for opposing the no-helmet exemption.

So, what’s the issue? Turbans are a vital part of the Sikh faith and identity, but helmets do not fit over the turbans, which take about 10 to 15 minutes to tie.

Two things. First, those extra minutes will be well worth if it means preventing someone’s brains from splattering across the street.

“The safety of our roads will always remain a priority,” Ford said in a statement Oct. 10. “But our government also believes that individuals have personal accountability and responsibility with respect to their own well-being.”

Which leads to the second point: Why not apply the exemption to all motorcyclists and not just those wearing turbans?

Consider other religious accommodations. In the early 1990s,  Mounties were permitted by the federal government to wear turbans instead of police caps. In 2016, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson approved the decision to allow Muslim women Mounties to wear the hijab. There is no safety concern in the aforementioned. However, to exempt helmets for motorcyclists in turbans is a question of safety.

Likewise, wearing a hijab to a citizenship oath is okay. These are sound and reasonable religious accommodations.

The helmet exemption exploded on Twitter last week, with most asking who would cover insurance and medicare bills. Others questioned common sense and safety, and some wondered about riders signing donor cards.

The Sikh Motorcycle Club of Ontario, in a Facebook post, announced an event on Oct. 18 to thank the Ford government for the move.

The Facebook page has about 2,200 likes and followers. A pretty small  population, give or take.  So, does the government assume accidents won’t be likely and Sikh riders will, in fact, wear helmets despite the exemption?

If Ford really believes the people of Ontario are accountable for their own safety and well-being, a helmet exemption should apply to all riders.

That would have been a more inclusive move.

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Posted: Oct 17 2018 11:39 am
Filed under: Opinion