Toronto city council has approved a bylaw to make masks mandatory in public indoor settings to help slow the spread of COVID−19.
The bylaw was written on the recommendation of Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa.
Mayor John Tory says the temporary bylaw does not affect social gatherings but will apply to public spaces including stores and other businesses.
The bylaw comes into effect on July 7 and will be reviewed by de Villa on a monthly basis.
De Villa says she made the recommendation to help Toronto move from Stage 2 of the Ontario’s reopening plan to Stage 3.
She says masks will help indoor spaces — most of which had been closed during the earlier stages of the pandemic — stay safe.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for all of us to remember that we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” De Villa said during a news conference Tuesday.
Mayor John Tory noted the bylaw takes effect shortly after masks become mandatory on the city’s public transit system. That rule will come into place on Thursday, with single−use masks being handed out to passengers who do not have one.
“We hope there will be more people back on the TTC, and distancing will become a greater and greater challenge,” Tory said.
Mayors from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area asked Premier Doug Ford on Monday to make masks mandatory across Ontario, but the premier rejected the idea.
That led Tory, as well as Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, to announce their intention to make masks mandatory in their respective municipalities.
“We’re at a critical time in the fight against COVID−19, we must do everything we can to avoid the flare−up of this virus in our community,” said Brown.
The town of Caledon is also considering a temporary bylaw and York Regional Council, north of Toronto, is going to debate a similar bylaw on July 9. York Region’s public transit is also making masks mandatory starting Thursday.
Ford was asked about the pending bylaws during his daily news conference on Tuesday afternoon and he said he was in favour of different regions and municipalities instituting mandatory masks as necessary.
“I encourage and compliment the regions that are doing it … but Toronto and Peel are different than Kenora and Rainy River. It’s apples and oranges,” said Ford.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation, a right−leaning think tank, has been critical of mandatory mask orders in other Ontario municipalities, calling them an affront to civil liberties.
“There are people who cannot wear a mask due to a respiratory illness or a psychological trauma associated with having a breathing obstruction,” CCF litigation director Christine Van Geyn said in a statement Monday.
“For obvious reasons, if a person has PTSD related to having their breathing obstructed, they should not need to discuss this with strangers in order to buy toilet paper or fill up their gas tank.”
The foundation said in an open letter to municipalities contemplating mandatory mask bylaws that they should only apply where physical distancing is not possible, and the fines should be proportionate.
Meanwhile, Quebec moved to make masks mandatory on public transit across the province.
Premier Francois Legault made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday, saying the measure will come into effect July 13. Legault said after a two−week probationary period, people not wearing a mask will be denied access to public transit.
John Chidley−Hill, The Canadian Press
© The Canadian Press