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Nova Scotia making mask wearing mandatory in most indoor public places by July 31

C-stores are included in the new rules

Nova Scotia is making mask-wearing mandatory in most indoor public places beginning July 31 – even for performers singing at concerts.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said today the measure is necessary to minimize any potential second wave of COVID-19.

The indoor places where masks will be mandatory include retail businesses, shopping centres, hair salons, places of worship, sports facilities, elevators, hallways, and common areas of offices.

People entering restaurants or bars will have to wear a mask until they begin eating or drinking.

Strang says people leading religious services or performers at concerts will have to wear masks even while speaking or singing, adding athletes should wear masks indoors except during an activity where a mask cannot be worn.

Masks will also be required in the public areas of a university or college campus, such as the library or student union building, but not inside classrooms, labs, offices or residences.

Face coverings will also be expected in train and bus stations, ferry terminals and airports. Children under two years old are exempt, as are children aged two-to-four years old when their caregiver cannot get them to wear one. People with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask are also exempt.

Strand told a news conference: “It’s time to make a habit of wearing a non-medical mask in most indoor public settings. It’s our best chance to keep our communities as open as possible as we move into the fall and a possible second wave of COVID-19.”

Strang said businesses can refuse entry to customers not wearing a mask, unless they are among the small group who for medical and other reasons are exempt from the requirement.

He said he expects the vast majority of citizens will voluntarily comply. “Are there going to be some people who don’t (wear masks)? Yes,” he said. “But we have to come at it from a positive, constructive approach and one way is to ensure access to masks isn’t an issue.”

“Taking a strong, heavy-handed enforcement approach isn’t going to work in a situation like this,” he said.


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C-stores shouldn’t be responsible for policing mask rules: CICC

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The Convenience Industry Council of Canada (CICC) is speaking out against the decision of some provinces and municipalities to make retailers liable for customers’ refusal to wear face masks.

“The first priority of the small business operators we represent is the health and safety of our employees and our customers. Convenience retailers have continually made their best efforts to ensure that customers and staff comply with all public health orders, including the increasing number of mandatory face mask requirements being implemented across the country,” said Anne Kothawala, president and CEO of the CICC.

Quebec is the first province to make mask-wearing mandatory in all public spaces, including retail stores, as of July 18, 2020. Businesses will be expected to enforce the new rules and are subject to fines of between $400 and $6,000 if their customers are caught violating the health directive.

Several municipalities across Ontario, including Toronto, are also making mask mandatory and putting the onus on retailers to enforce compliance or refuse service. Those who are not in compliance risk fines.

The move unfairly places the ultimate responsibility for customer compliance on small business owners, who not also face financial penalties, but, as is surfacing in several media report, physical and verbal abuse from some customers who refuse to comply.

“Individual retailers should not be held liable for customers’ refusal to comply with public health orders,” said Kothawala. “Convenience retailers should be required to ensure that they have a policy in place, that the policy is communicated to all staff and customers, and that their best efforts to ensure compliance have been made, but ultimately it should be an individual’s responsibility to comply with the law.”

Some people, including children under 12 and those with certain medical conditions, are not required to wear masks, but how is a retailer or small business owner expected to know who falls into this category?

“Given the variety of human rights exemptions to this policy that exist, and the inability of retailers to demand proof of exemption, it is unreasonable to expect customer service staff to perform the duties of the police or risk significant fines,” says Kothawala, adding that operators and staff are risk of abuse if they are forced to confront shoppers not wearing masks. “We have a responsibility to protect our employees and customers from these types of altercations. Our role should be to de-escalate these situations, not to play part-time police.”


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Quebec makes masks mandatory in public indoor spaces starting Saturday

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Quebec has become the first Canadian province to make mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public places for people aged 12 years and older.
Premier Francois Legault said the new directive enters into effect Saturday – just in time for the province’s annual construction holiday.
Businesses will be expected to enforce the new rules and are subject to fines of between $400 and $6,000 if their customers are caught violating the health directive, Legault told reporters Monday in Montreal.
He said the government is considering imposing fines on individuals beginning in August. People who for medical reasons cannot wear masks are exempt from the new rule, Legault added.
The premier said his government held off making mask-wearing indoors mandatory until now because it wanted to impose restrictions on Quebecers gradually. The new rules enter into effect July 18, at the beginning of the two-week construction holiday, during which Quebecers are expected to travel around the province with their families.
“It’s easier to wear a mask than to return to being confined,” Legault said, adding the province has seen a slight increase in the number of daily new COVID-19 cases.
“I know it’s summer,” he said. “It’s holidays. It’s not fun to wear a mask, but it’s essential to avoid going backwards.”
Quebec reported 100 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, as well as one additional death. That brings the province’s total deaths to 5,628, while infections reached 56,621. Hospitalizations declined by one to 305, with 21 people in intensive care.
Legault said the new rule applies in all indoor settings across the province, including restaurants – but only when patrons are moving around.
“When we are sitting down, when we are at a table, we can take it off,” he said. “But when we get up to use the bathroom or to leave, we put it back on.”
Groups representing business owners raised concerns about the responsibility of enforcing the measure, suggesting it places an additional burden on retailers who are already struggling.
In a statement, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that while business owners respect the need to limit a second wave of the pandemic, “public health is a shared responsibility.”
“To ask a small business to be entirely responsible for consumer actions, which are beyond its reasonable control, and to impose fines doesn’t seem very equitable,” said Gopinath Jeyabalaratnam, a policy analyst for the group.
The Conseil du Patronat du Quebec, which represents employers, said responsibility should be shared between clients and business owners, and called on the government to emphasize education rather than fines.
Legault said it was necessary to rely on businesses because “police cannot be in all the shops at the same time.” He said enforcement would likely begin with warnings and progress to fines.
As for retail or restaurant workers who are confronted with recalcitrant customers, Legault said they should call police.
On Monday, mask-wearing also became mandatory inside public transit across the province. At the entrance to Montreal’s St-Laurent subway station, however, there was little evidence anything had changed.
Around noon, there were no employees or prominent signs indicating the new rules as transit users, some wearing masks and some not, came in and out through the turnstiles.
Masks were more in evidence as rush hour began, and an announcement could be heard over the loudspeaker informing transit users of the measure.
The province has granted transit users a two-week grace period before people can be denied boarding for failing to wear a face covering. Legault said he expected a similar period would also be granted to allow the public to get used to the wider rule before fines are imposed.


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No mask, no service? C-stores have the right to require customers wear masks

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Customers hoping to get out of putting on a face mask to visit stores demanding they wear one, could be out of luck.

Experts agree with remarks Ontario Premier Doug Ford made on Friday, reminding Canadians that companies have the right to ask you to slip on a face covering or seek products and services elsewhere.

“Any business has the right to refuse anyone. That’s their business,” Ford said on a teleconference last week. “I highly highly encourage that people put on a face shield.”

He said he knows of two large grocery chains that have already adopted the “no mask, no service” policy meant to quell the spread of COVID-19.

The Canadian Press has been told by Longo’s and T&T supermarkets, Air Canada and Uber that shoppers, travellers and riders will be confronted with the mandatory policy at their stores and businesses.

Richard Powers, a University of Toronto associate professor with expertise in business law, said the policy is well within a company’s rights.

“The safety of retail workers and staff trumps the customers right to refuse wearing a mask,” he said.

“Businesses have a legal responsibility to create a safe working environment and if having people wear masks is a reasonable accommodation, which I think it is, to provide that safe environment, I believe that the retailer can refuse entry to someone who will not don a mask.”

City of Toronto spokesperson Diala Homaidan confirmed in an email that “no mask, no service” policies do not contravene any bylaws, but said such rules are not a requirement of business licensing and are left to the discretion of individual companies.

However, businesses that do implement such policies are likely to face concerns from Canadians with health conditions that are aggravated by masks.

Wearing a mask could contribute to an asthma attack for some, she said, while others with autism spectrum disorder may have trouble with sensory processing, as well as tactile, olfactory and nervous-system hypersensitivity that wearing a mask could trigger.

“Be very aware of those with different types of cognitive, intellectual disabilities, those who are hearing impaired and others,” Canada’s top health official said recently.

“Don’t assume that someone who isn’t wearing a mask or is wearing something different doesn’t have an actual reason for it,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

Powers believes this is a sign some retailers could be in for a fight.

“Someone will challenge that on whatever grounds–discrimination perhaps–and that creates a hassle for the retailer and an expense, if they choose to fight it,” he said.

Adam Savaglio, a partner at business and employment law firm Scarfone Hawkins LLP, said the policy creates “a dance” for companies, especially because governments are advising them to take precautions to protect people from COVID-19.

“It can create a potential discrimination claim because one of the grounds in Ontario, at least under the Human Rights Code, where an individual may have a claim, is they’re being adversely treated on account of a protected ground, in this case, disability,” Savaglio said.

“They may have a personal right of action against the owner of that business for denial of service.”

That can be juxtaposed with health and safety legislation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which says companies have an obligation to protect its employees from all reasonable or forseeable risks of harm.

“That creates a competing rights issue,” he said. “Who triumphs if the individual refuses to adhere to the protocol?”