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Canada’s Alberta province, which has the third largest population of Sikhs after British Columbia and Ontario, will allow turban-wearing Sikhs to drive motorcycles without a helmet from April 12.
British Columbia and Manitoba already allow Sikhs to drive motorcycles without helmets.
Alberta’s Transportation Minister Brian Mason said on Thursday that the exemption was granted at the request of the Sikh community as recognition of their civil rights and religious expression. The exemption applies to drivers and passengers over the age of 18 who are members of the Sikh religion.
“Our government is committed to these principles,” Mason said.
According to an Alberta government spokesperson, a rider wearing a turban, but not a helmet, would have to self-identify to be considered a Sikh. At that point, it would be up to the discretion of the officer. If the officer doesn’t believe the rider, a ticket may still be issued. The rider would then have to challenge it in court.
As per the 2011 census, there are 52,335 Sikhs in Alberta.
Baltej Singh Dhillon, who became the first Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer with a turban, welcomed Alberta’s decision.
In a statement, he said: “The decision by the government of Alberta to allow Sikhs to be able to ride their motorcycles without having to remove their turbans, which is an integral part of the Sikh identity, demonstrates a deep respect for the traditions and customs of the Sikh community.
“This exemption is a testament to the government of Alberta’s continued commitment to respecting diversity and religious rights of all Albertans.”
Gurpeet Pandher from the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Edmonton called the announcement a “milestone and memorable day” in Alberta’s history.