People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal, Saturday, July 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. The wearing of masks or protective face coverings is mandatory in Quebec as of today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal, Saturday, July 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. The wearing of masks or protective face coverings is mandatory in Quebec as of today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Quebec becomes first province to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces

Some cities outside of Quebec have also brought in mask mandates

Quebec’s move to make mask-wearing obligatory in all indoor public places as of Saturday was met with a protest march and with small business owners calling on the government to shift enforcement off their shoulders.

The new COVID-19-related directive, the first provincewide order of the sort in Canada, applies to people aged 12 and older and coincided with tens of thousands of Quebecers spanning out across the province on vacation for the traditional two-week construction holiday.

As it came into effect, associations representing the businesses that are expected to enforce the rules called on the Quebec government in a joint statement to shift the onus to those delinquent clients unwilling to wear a mask.

Public health is a collective responsibility, they wrote, and the absence of deterrents to consumers puts the entire risk and stress on businesses. The groups called on measures similar to those in Toronto or countries like England and Belgium, where fines directly target individuals.

“We do think that asking people to wear masks in indoor, closed public spaces is fine. We prefer that rather than having to go into a second confinement and having to close our businesses again,” said Gopinath Jeyabalaratnam, a senior policy analyst at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“Where we are having some trouble is that we have to play police, we have to be the enforcer of this measure.”

Businesses will be expected to enforce the new rules and are subject to fines of between $400 and $6,000 if their customers are caught violating the directive.

Jeyabalaratnam said some businesses have opted simply to give disposable masks to clients who don’t have one — an added cost. But short of putting up signs or asking citizens to put one on, there isn’t much else they can do.

“It’s very difficult for a store owner to enforce it in some other way, so we don’t see why business owners should pay fines,” Jeyabalaratnam said.

“It should be up to the person who is refusing to wear masks who is responsible in some way to pay for his or her own mistake.”

In Ontario, the province has decided not to issue a provincewide order, but has left it up to municipalities to enact their own local bylaws like Ottawa and Toronto.

In Toronto, where mandatory masking has been in place for almost two weeks, many people outdoors are donning some sort of facial covering as it’s the only way to get into most businesses or to hop on the city’s transit system.

In Quebec, anyone riding public transit will be required to wear a mask after a two-week grace period is up on July 27.

READ MORE: Lockdown fatigue, ‘invincibility’ causing more COVID-19 infections in young people

But those opposed to mandatory masking took to the streets against the new edict, arguing the government shouldn’t have a blanket policy when most regions outside Montreal weren’t deeply affected by COVID-19.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, has repeatedly warned Quebecers to get in the habit of wearing masks to prepare for a possible second wave of the virus in the fall.

In St-Georges, in the Beauce region south of Quebec City, several hundred people took part in a march organized by business owners to voice their opposition to the order.

“We have a lot of small businesses here and people are completely against the obligation of wearing a mask, and we’re worried for them because we don’t want them to see their business hurt,” said Chantal Giguere, one of the organizers.

She said many residents in the rural region are vehemently opposed to wearing a mask.

“It shouldn’t be an obligation but a personal choice,” she said. “Distancing is one thing, but the mask is something that should be optional for those who don’t want to wear it.”

At an east-end Montreal shopping centre, customers were taking the new rules in stride.

“I have no problem with it, I’ve been wearing it for more than two weeks whenever I was going indoors, voluntarily, out of respect for others,” said Simon Landry. “I imagine it’ll have a bigger impact if everyone wears one instead of just a few and everything we can do to avoid a second wave, we should.”

Fernando Fregoso said he hadn’t worn one regularly other than to do groceries, and while it can be a bit annoying wearing one, he’s resigned to it.

“It’s not the greatest thing, but it’s the reality, I know, we have to wear it to protect everybody else,” Fregoso said.

Quebec has seen a slight resurgence in COVID-19 cases in recent days, which Premier Francois Legault has said is due, in part, to house parties.

On Saturday, the province added 158 new cases, bringing the total provincial tally to 57,300.

The province also added seven further deaths for a total of 5,654.

Provincial health authorities say that 50,027 people have recovered.

— with files from Ugo Giguere in Montreal and Jake Kivanc in Toronto.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusQuebec

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Alexandra “Annabelle” Lee and her grandpa Bryan Weightman enjoyed a shopping spree at the Sicamous Askew’s foods location after Weightman won a draw for a gift card. (Submitted)
Sicamous seven-year-old fills grandparents’ shopping cart after contest win

When her grandparents won an Askew’s Foods gift card, Alexandra Lee got to handle the shopping

Staff at R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum and community partners are preparing several interactive contests to help celebrate the 25th annual Heritage Week, Feb. 15 to 21. (Contributed)
Public to play interactive role in Salmon Arm Heritage Week celebration

R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum silent auction to kick off events on Feb. 15

A large portion of Anglemont is without running water due to a water main break on Jan. 26. (CSRD Image)
A large part of Anglemont in the North Shuswap is without water due to a water line break on Jan. 26. (Black Press File Photo)
Broken water main leaves Shuswap community without running water

The water line has left Anglemont residents either without water or with low pressure.

(Pixabay)
‘Roadmap out of COVID-19’: Innovate BC’s program helping businesses recover

CEO Raghwa Gopal said the tech sector is here to help brick and mortar businesses

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Kevin Lee Barrett pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of his mother Eleanor Holmes on Tuesday, Jan. 26. (File)
West Kelowna man who beat his mom could be sentenced up to 9 years

Kevin Barrett entered a surprise guilty plea to the lesser charge of aggravated assault on Tuesday morning

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

Vernon now has an approved 13 cannabis shops in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon, the ‘Pot capital of B.C.’ greenlights two new stores downtown

Two more shops, within 240 metres, approved, despite neighbouring businesses opposition

11 more cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a cluster on Big White Mountain. Pictured above is TELUS park at Big White Ski Resort, Jan. 26. (Big White Ski Resort)
11 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

This brings the total case count to 225, according to health authorities in a Tuesday update

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

Oliver Elementary School
Former Oliver PAC treasurer charged with fraud returns to court

Belinda Yorke will be in court to fix a date for trial in February

Two fibreglass bees were stolen from Vernon’s Planet Bee Honey Farm Nov. 22, 2020. (Facebook)
Stolen bee returned to Vernon honey farm

Two months after thieves buzzed off with two bee sculptures, public tips led police one of them

Most Read