Guelph woman turned away from store for not wearing a mask
KITCHENER -- “Humiliated, embarrassed, demeaned.”
That’s how a Guelph woman feels after she was denied entry at an optical store for not wearing a mask.
As of June 12, masks became mandatory at all businesses in the city.
But Rosa Dallan says she can’t wear one because of a medical condition and is exempt from the new rule.
The 71-year-old had booked Wednesday's appointment at the Hakim Optical location on Woolwich Street in advance.
Dallan says she told them on the phone before her arrival about her medical issue.
Her daughter, Miranda Dallan, also suffers from the same condition.
“My lungs will seize,” she says. “I’ll stop breathing if they feel like they can’t get that air out.”
Dallan says as a precaution, she brought a medical note to her appointment.
“She didn’t believe the veracity of the note because she proceeded to ask me: ‘What are your medical reasons?’”
According to Dallan, employees offered to help her but only outside the store.
Her daughter calls their behavior unethical.
“They treat my mother like an animal and to service her in a parking lot.".
Geoff Nash, the Area Manager for Hakim Optical, disagrees.
“To my knowledge everything was handled professionally and with respect.”
He says the wellbeing of his staff members comes first, adding that they’re allowed to refuse service.
“Realistically, if they don’t feel safe, they don’t feel safe,” he says. “I support my staff as far as their safety goes.”
Dr. Nicola Mercer, the Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, also weighed in on the situation.
“We absolutely encourage an accommodation approach,” she says.
Since the Public Health order was implemented, some businesses have been stricter than others.
Dr. Mercer says customers shouldn’t have to provide proof of a medical condition.
“They are just to tell the store that they have a medical issue and that is to be taken at face value,” she says.
Dallan’s daughter also believes that's what should have been done.
“They shouldn’t be discriminated against,” she says. “They shouldn’t have to explain themselves. They should be given the benefit of the doubt.”
Both mother and daughter say they don’t plan on visiting the store again.
They’ve also reached out the Human Rights Commission but have not yet decided if they will make a claim.
According to the organization’s website, a complaint can be filed within one year of the incident.