Masks face some resistance in Edmonton on first day of bylaw

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Mask-wearing faced some resistance in Edmonton on Saturday as the bylaw requiring them in indoor public spaces and transit took effect.

The vast majority of shoppers seen at Edmonton City Centre Saturday afternoon wore masks, while some staff inside the mall were met with hostility. Masks are required on transit, and in all stores, restaurants, entertainment venues, recreation centres, malls, all city-run buildings, and taxis starting Aug. 1.

Tiana Osinchuk, shift supervisor at SoftMoc, said most people were willing to follow the rules. The store had a “no mask no entry” sign at the entrance, along with posters asking visitors to follow public health recommendations.

“Most people have been wearing their masks. We personally aren’t comfortable letting people in if they’re not wearing masks, so we are refusing service to people who aren’t wearing masks, but everyone’s been pretty good about it,” she said.

Osinchuck said there had not been an issue with customers protesting, although one man walked by and yelled into the store “six feet is enough.”

Employees at the Starbucks next door had a different experience.

Supervisor Hunter Lilloco said she’s happy many customers come in already wearing a mask. But when she’s had to ask customers if they wouldn’t mind wearing one, there has been resistance, she said.

“My first actual customer of the day asked if it was a law, and that if it was, that I should just call the cops on him, and it was a yelling match,” she said. “It’s just the ones that (aren’t wearing masks) that we have to ask, that it’s met with quite a bit of resistance, and seen almost as an attack instead of a safety measure.”

On the first day of Edmonton's mandatory indoor public space mask bylaw, approximately 50 anti mask protestors marched from the alberta Legislature to Edmonton City Hall, Saturday Aug. 1, 2020. Photo by David Bloom
On the first day of Edmonton’s mandatory indoor public space mask bylaw, approximately 50 anti-mask protestors marched from the Alberta Legislature to City Hall, Aug. 1, 2020.  David Bloom David Bloom/David Bloom/Postmedia

Meanwhile, a small group of about 50 people protested city council’s new rules Saturday afternoon in downtown Edmonton, saying they infringed on their personal freedoms. Protestors criticized the prime minister, public health officials leading the COVID-19 response, science, the media, Canada’s rule of law, and touted unproven conspiracy theories.

Most others seen walking downtown Edmonton Saturday afternoon wore masks.

Canada’s top doctors — including Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam — have recommended wearing masks. Masks, along with physical distancing, can reduce the spread of COVID-19.