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Sikhs to be granted helmet exemption

The Alberta government is granting turban-wearing Sikhs the right to freely express their religion by allowing them to ride a motorcycle without the use of a helmet. 

An exemption for drivers or passengers who are over the age of 18 and are bona fide members of the Sikh religion will take effect on April 12, 2018. The Vehicle Equipment Regulation in the Traffic Safety Act is being amended through a Ministerial Order.

Alberta will be the third jurisdiction in Canada to allow this exemption, alongside British Columbia and Manitoba. 

“The Sikh community has urged us to grant this exemption in recognition of its civil rights and religious expression. Our government is committed to these principles.”

Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation

“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.”

Baltej Singh Dhillon, first RCMP officer to wear a turban

“The government should always strive to accommodate free expression, especially when the expression does not harm others who make this choice, nor further restricts the reasonable choices of its citizen. This case is not different in this regard. We have the opportunity to accommodate differences in religious expression and free choice among options, and to model ways to reasonably make these choices.”

Kelly Ernst, PhD, president, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association

Quick facts

  • Alberta has the third-highest Sikh population in Canada – 52,335 people, according to the 2011 census.
  • April is a significant month for the Sikh community as it marks the celebration of Vaisakhi on April 14th.
  • Sohan Singh Bhullar was one of the first Sikh settlers who moved to Alberta in 1907. In 2013, the City of Edmonton named a park in his memory in the Millwoods area - "Sohan Singh Bhullar Park."
  • Harnam Singh Hari was one of Alberta’s first Sikh citizens in Calgary in 1909. The City of Calgary named a park in his honour in 2013 - “Singh Hari Park.”
  • Siri Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara is Edmonton’s oldest standing Gurdwara (Sikh Temple).

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