Questions about mandatory masks: Is it time to start issuing fines and who should pay?
OTTAWA -- There is a stepped up focus on the use of masks in the capital.
There are questions about whether the City of Ottawa should be moving from education to enforcement and whether businesses or individual should be on the hook if bylaw officers hand out fines.
Out front of the Apple Saddlery on Innes Road, a handwashing station by the front door is equipped with running water, soap, and paper towels: a requirement if you wish to head indoors.
Inside, other measures are in place that general manager Scott Kierstead oversees at the equestrian superstore, including dedicated entrances and exits, floor markers, signage, and cash shields. All preferred, but not mandatory.
"As soon as they announced that face masks were going to be mandatory we were right on board with that," Kierstead says. "We put up signage day one, and we’d certainly ask that all customers wear masks while inside the store."
The bylaw is not a problem for the shoppers at Apple Saddlery, but that's not the case everywhere.
Protests against mask wearing were held in several Canadian cities Sunday, including Ottawa. Dozens marched from City Hall to Parliament, some with signs reading "my body, my rules, my choice". In Halifax, protesters took to the streets for what they called a "march to unmask". Demonstrations were also held in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal.
In Quebec, newly implemented mask laws have put the burden of policing their use onto shop owners.
"Business owners who fail to enforce this mask requirement will be subject to fines of $400 to $6000 for offences," Premier François Legault said last week in a press conference.
In Ottawa, the City has chosen to educate, rather than issue fines, but violators could receive a ticket between $200 and $400. So far, the city has received 44 complaints and has handed out 25 warnings. No one has been fined yet.
There are exceptions to the mandatory mask rule. If you have a medical condition, for instance, a mask does not have to be worn, but it's up to the individual store to decide if they will let you in.
Keirstead says, at Apple Saddlery, almost every shopper complies but there is the occasional customer who comes in citing a medical reason why they cannot. Their stance, like the City's, is to educate and, if the customer feels comfortable going inside, they do not push back.