Businesses, doctors call for mandatory mask order in B.C.
VANCOUVER -- When provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced it’s now her expectation that people will wear masks in all indoor public places, the president of Stong’s Markets thought it would be followed up with a mask mandate from public health like the ones already in place in Ontario and Quebec.
“I would like to see that, yes,” said Brian Bradley. But that order never came.
“This really does put the onus on the employee and the company to police people wearing masks,” said Bradley. “I think if the provincial health authorities made it an order, it would certainly make it easier at retail.”
The B.C. director of the Retail Council of Canada, Greg Wilson, agrees.
“It would be much clearer if there was a mandate, and it seems appropriate at a time when cases are high in particular health regions for a mandate in those health regions. But it’s Dr. Henry’s call,” said Wilson.
In saying mask-wearing is now an expectation, Henry is trusting British Columbians to listen, saying: “It’s not an order because this is something that I know we support as part of our mutual responsibilities.”
But some fellow doctors are skeptical.
“It’s great that she has that expectation, but what we know from other jurisdictions in Canada – in other provinces, in other cities – is that in order to create the expectation, you actually need the mandate,” said Dr. Amy Tan with the group Masks4Canada.
She says there are now mask mandates covering around 80 per cent of the Canadian population, and she insists they work. “I think as Canadians, if we have a clear message, I think most of us will go along with it.”
In not having a public health order to wear masks indoors, B.C. is now an outlier.
“An order would eliminate the onus on our industry to make that requirement," said Wilson. “One of the difficulties in us requiring masks is we require pushback from some customers which point out that it is not a public health order.”
The day after Henry announced masks are now an expectation indoors, Stong’s changed its signage to thank customers for wearing them, instead of asking.
There’s an employee offering disposable masks to customers as they head inside, but Bradley says he can’t make them a requirement without putting his employees in a difficult position to police the policy.
So unless the expectation is backed up by an order from the provincial health officer, he thinks some shoppers will continue to go maskless.