Head protection versus turban-wearing: another culture war battlefront

09 Oct

A relatively new battlefront in the culture war; so far, in Canada, the proper side is mostly winning.

The Port of Montreal requires hard hats for all workers on its property. Three Sikh truck drivers who perform regular pickups at the port have a religious conviction that forbids putting anything on their head except a five-to-six metre length of wrapped cotton.

And last week, in a court decision that was soon publicized throughout India, the Quebec Superior Court sided with the port. Turban-wearing Sikhs can still enter the port, but if they don’t put on a hard hat they have to stay in the cabs of their truck.


In 2006, an attempt by two B.C. dock workers to obtain helmet exemptions for Sikh longshoremen failed on arbitration; turban-wearing Sikhs were simply reassigned to areas where hard hats weren’t mandatory. “It is clear and obvious that workers can bump their heads, and thereby sustain head injuries,” read the decision.

There was a similar outcome in 2008, when two B.C. mill workers objecting to a mandatory hard hat policy were simply reassigned to a less dangerous part of the mill.

That same year, an Ontario court rejected the case of a turban-wearing Sikh man who claimed religious infringement for being ticketed while riding his motorcycle without a helmet.

More recently, in 2014 Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne definitively rejected the Canadian Sikh Association’s request for a religious exemption on motorcycle helmets. “Ultimately, the safety of Ontarians is my utmost priority,” wrote Wynne.


Currently, there are only two places in Canada where turban-wearing Sikhs can find a codified exemption from a safety requirement. In Manitoba, “bona fide members of the Sikh religion” are not required to wear helmets while motorcycling. In B.C., a similar motorcycle helmet exemption is open to any Sikh who “has unshorn hair and habitually wears a turban composed of 5 or more square meters of cloth.”

The B.C. exemption, enacted after a 1999 human rights tribunal decision, was made with the full knowledge that it would likely result in more Sikhs getting killed on B.C. highways. A detailed accounting contained in the decision surmised that exempting Sikhs from the helmet law would raise motorcycle fatalities by as much as two per year, and brain injuries by as much as 10.


Said Grey, “it was the French philosopher Jacques Attali who said that in the future, all policy will be dictated by insurance companies.”

No doubt, as that’s the managerial technocratic state way!


12 responses to “Head protection versus turban-wearing: another culture war battlefront

  1. electricangel

    October 9, 2016 at 12:07 am

    What ACTUALLY happened to BC motorcycle death rates? If the ass who predicted that rise was wrong, he deserves public opprobrium.

  2. Saracen III

    October 9, 2016 at 12:42 am

    An Australian motorcycle journo held that not wearing a helmet should be freely allowed,
    as long as the rider carried comprehensive head trauma insurance.

  3. electricangel

    October 9, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Recent data on motorcycle deaths in BC are available here:

    Tl;dr: the rate averaged 33 death a year over the last five years, no rising trend.

  4. electricangel

    October 9, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Bad traffic stats 1998-2004 means no fair comparison. Maybe someone can find 1991-1996 stats?

  5. feeriker

    October 9, 2016 at 11:03 am

    It’s very siimple: the decision to wear -or not wear- protective head coverings is an individual one – where the decision to NOT wear such protective covering in a hazardous environment means that the individual has accepted responsibilty for any consequences of that decision, thus holding harmless all other parties.

    • Carnivore

      October 9, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      In the US, it’s decided on a state-by-state basis (no federal law). Surprisingly, in my liberal-run, Marxist home state of Illinois, there is no motorcycle helmet law.

      • feeriker

        October 9, 2016 at 9:34 pm

        Here in Arizona there’s no mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists either. For cyclists, on the other hand …

        Pure madness.

    • Will S.

      October 9, 2016 at 8:02 pm



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