Region of Waterloo councillors get ready to vote on mandatory mask bylaw
KITCHENER -- Councillors for the Region of Waterloo are expecting a lengthy discussion ahead of their decision on whether or not to make face coverings mandatory.
Two proposed bylaws are on the table for the Monday meeting. If they get passed, Waterloo Region residents would be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces like stores, places of worship, and on transit.
Children under five and those with medical reasons would be exempt from the bylaws.
“I’m concerned with people’s safety,” said Susan Foxton, Township of North Dumfries Mayor. “I’m also concerned with people’s comfort level.
“The mask reminds us that we’re in a dangerous situation, and we really are still.”
If there is a lack of compliance with the rules, residents could be fined up to $1,000.
“As we open up more in the future through stage three, we want to make sure we’re creating a safe environment both for the public and for those who are employed in those venues,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “There are concerns around the fact that, from a civil liberties point of view, they don’t feel that anything like this should be mandated.”
Councillors say hundreds of emails have been pouring in with strong opinions both in favour of mandatory masks and against it.
“Their main argument [for mandatory masks] is that this is for the safety and the wellbeing of the people they come in contact with,” said Councillor Jim Erb. “Others are worried about the sanitary conditions that may exist in the mask and may cause the virus to spread more.
“I’m not convinced that we’re going to be able to enforce this through people being ticketed or being followed.”
Foxton says she wants to see all the sides before making the decision, and plans to raise questions at the Monday meeting to iron out details.
“If I’m six feet away from people, can I pull my mask down and breathe a little bit?” she said. “Can I put it back up when I get closer?”
Vrbanovic adds that the trigger for the bylaw to come to an end is not specified in the current draft.
In an email, Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry says she wants to see resources be provided for businesses and others to deal with people who can’t or won’t comply.
“We’re really taking it seriously, looking into it deeply, and hoping we make the best decision for Waterloo Region,” said Foxton.
The Monday meeting will be held virtually and begin with a closed session at 4 p.m.
This will immediately be followed by an open session when a number of delegates are slated to speak.