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Man Challenging Motorcycle Safety Regulations in Ontario

Baljinder Badesha, a Sikh, is challenging Ontario's motorcycle helmet law as a violation of his rights. Mr. Badesha is a 39-year-old father of four who immigrated to Canada in 1989 and was an avid motorcyclist in his native India, was charged by Peel police in September 2005 with failing to wear a helmet. He had been riding about a month on his new Honda Shadow.

The ticket is for $110 but the real issue is whether he'll have the right to ride without a helmet. He hasn't ridden since getting the ticket. He lived in BC before, where Sikh's are exempt from having to wear helmets while riding their motorcycles. He indicates he wasn't aware he was required to wear one in Ontario. Manitoba is another Canadian Province with this exemption. It's also the case in the UK, Hong Kong, and India.

He's got some powerful groups on his side, the Ontario Human Rights Commission for one. Scott Hutchison, an attorney for the human rights commission, told a Brampton court, "Telling Mr. Badesha to choose between his religion or participating in the normal life of Ontario is discrimination,"

"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."

Mr. Badesha said in a statement that 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. Government lawyers on the other hand indicate that denying non-helmeted riders access to motorcycles does not violate the Constitution.

Defence lawyer Mel Sokosky said the judge's ruling would apply only to Badesha though. "It's not a blanket exemption unless the Ontario legislature sees fit to make it the law, an exemption for devout Sikhs." "It stands to reason that if he succeeds then all other people in the same situation should also be able to succeed," said Sokosky.

As of the writing of this article the case is ongoing and continues to be a contentious issue.

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