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Watchdog backs motorcyclist in turban battle

Discussion in 'Sikh Youth' started by Aman Singh, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Tech Admin SPNer

    Jun 1, 2004
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    Feb 15, 2008 04:30 AM
    Bob Mitchell
    Staff Reporter

    Businessman Baljinder Badesha of Brampton says he is fighting the $110 ticket he got in 2005 for not wearing a motorcycle helmet on principle.

    The Ontario Human Rights Commission has ridden to the defence of a Brampton man who says being forced to wear a motorcycle helmet instead of his turban runs counter to his religious faith.
    Baljinder Badesha, above, who was charged by Peel police in September 2005 with failing to wear a helmet, said he understands the inherent dangers of riding a motorcycle without a helmet but is willing to take the risk to follow his Sikh tenets.
    "I know it is for safety, but people die in car accidents all the time," the 39-year-old owner of a used car dealership said yesterday outside a Brampton court. He is fighting a $110 ticket he received for wearing his turban instead of a helmet while riding his motorcycle on Queen St. in Brampton near Hwy. 410.
    Now the Ontario Human Rights Commission is siding with him, insisting Badesha is being discriminated against.
    "Telling Mr. Badesha to choose between his religion or participating in the normal life of Ontario is discrimination," Scott Hutchison, an attorney for the human rights commission, told a Brampton court yesterday.
    "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."
    He said the Human Rights code "prevails" over the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). Forcing him to wear his helmet "infringes on his human dignity," Hutchison said.
    Badesha hasn't ridden his motorcycle since he received his ticket.
    "I was riding for three or four weeks. They caught me one day and gave me a ticket," said Badesha, outside of the courtroom. "I haven't ridden since."
    The married father of four has also been prevented from test-riding motorcycles sold at his dealership.
    Having previously resided in British Columbia, where Sikhs are exempt from wearing helmets, he said he didn't know it was against the law in Ontario. Court heard that Manitoba also makes the exemption as does the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and India.
    In an affidavit entered in court, Badesha said he had a "sincere" belief that he was obligated under the tenets of his faith to wear a turban at all times when outside his home.
    "We want an exemption for our religion," he said outside court.
    Hutchison said Badesha would not be required to take off his turban if he went into a restaurant that had a requirement for people to take off their hats.
    "The code would apply," he said.
    Should Justice James Blacklock acquit Badesha on the grounds he was discriminated against, Hutchison said it would not prohibit officers from laying charges against other Sikhs, who would have to seek similar relief from the courts.
    The trial continues today.
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