A devout Sikh is strongly considering appealing an Ontario judge’s ruling that forbids him from riding his motorcycle without a helmet.
Ontario Court Justice James Blacklock said Thursday the province’s helmet law does not discriminate against the freedom of religion, and ordered Baljinder Badesha to pay a $110 fine for not wearing the protective headgear.
Blacklock ruled that allowing Badesha to ride without a helmet would cause an “undue hardship” because it would compel the province to “abandon a reasonable safety standard.”
“No accommodation here is possible,” the judge said in his decision.
Badesha, who was ticketed in Brampton, Ont., in September 2005, said he wasn’t disappointed with the judge’s decision. But he answered “yes” when asked by reporters if he felt the ruling was religious discrimination.
“If you want, I can sell it to you,” Badesha joked with a reporter when asked what he plans to do with his motorcycle.
Badesha’s religion forbids him from putting on anything over his turban while outside his house.
Badesha and his lawyer, as well as Ontario Human Rights Commission lawyers who supported Badesha’s fight, said they will study the ruling and determine their next step.
“He feels he has certain rights he wants to have that upheld, and he’ll determine whether the courts will grant that, possibly, if he appeals,” Badesha’s lawyer Mel Sokolsky said.
Badesha’s supporters were disappointed with the outcome.
“I just heard the decision and I think we have to educate this community more,” said Manjit Mangat, a legal activist. “This is just a show of ignorance.”
The Ontario Human Rights Commission argued the provincial helmet law discriminates against Badesha because it violates his constitutional rights.
Crown lawyers argued helmet laws protect against devastating head injuries and save the public health-care system millions of dollars.
Non-fatal motorcycle accidents can cost the public purse up to $2.4 million, while fatal crashes can cost almost $20 million, according to Crown documents filed with the court.
Similar helmet law challenges have seen exemptions made for Sikh motorcyclists in British Columbia and Manitoba. The United Kingdom, India and Hong Kong also allow devout Sikhs to ride without a helmet.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Chris Eby