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Vancouver council votes against mandatory masks

Last Updated Oct 23, 2020 at 10:31 am PDT

FILE - A Vancouver councillor wants masks to be mandatory in all city-operated facilities (CITYNEWS/Tony Fera)

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung put forward a motion that would make face coverings mandatory

Kirby-Yung's motion was amended to say the city will 'strongly engcourage' mask wearing

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver has stopped short of mandating masks in city buildings, opting to “strongly encourage” wearing face coverings instead.

A motion, brought by Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, would have required masks in city-run buildings, directing the boards overseeing facilities like libraries and community centres to consider following suit.

RELATED: Vancouver councillor wants mandatory masks in city facilities

Over a dozen speakers pleaded with council on Thursday to vote against the proposal.

“Please consider our forefathers fought for our freedom, and if we release that choice, it’s the first step towards a dictatorship,” said one speaker. “Masks are used as weapons and they have certainly been used as weapons against me and other to silence and marginalize us and it’s not fair,” said a woman.

“Vancouverites have been forced to wear masks on public transit, in grocery stores, and in mall. The number the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 has actually risen,” exclaimed another.

The motion was eventually amended to say council will “support a ‘strongly encourage’ approach to mask wearing at city facilities for the duration of the COVID-19 response and recovery.” Other directions in the motion include “enhancing messaging and signage,” and ensuring city workers have adequate PPE.

“It’s particularly important that we follow the advice of public health experts who are telling us that they encourage mask-wearing but that we don’t yet need to go to a mandatory policy,” said Coun. Christine Boyle, who proposed the amendment.

Councillors conceded any policy covering civic spaces would need to get independent approval from their own boards, such as the Vancouver Park Board or the Vancouver Library Board, making the proposed mask-wearing policy of limited value.

“If we start doing it our way in civic facilities and then let libraries do it their way, we would have a patchwork of different approaches,” said Coun. Pete Fry.

The final version of the policy deletes references to libraries and community centres.

The amended motion passed in a vote along partisan lines with all four NPA councillors opposed.

Top doctors with Vancouver Coastal Health advised council against mandatory masks in a letter.

“In the hierarchy of measures to prevent COVID transmission, non-medical mask wearing is one of the lowest, and should not replace more effective measures,” reads a letter from Dr. Patricia Daly and Dr. Mark Mark Lysyshyn.

The letter lists a number of ways people can effectively prevent transmission suck as staying home when sick, and limiting social contacts. It also raises concern for people who can’t access or afford masks, and those for whom masks are intolerable due to medical conditions. It also raises concerns about putting staff in the position of enforcing the policy.

“Given the excellent COVID-19 safety plans in place at City facilities, and the relatively low rate of COVID-19 infection in the local population, there is no justification for a mandatory non-medical mask policy in City of Vancouver facilities at this time and we strongly recommend that it not be pursued.”

Masks are mandatory in municipal facilities in Delta and Richmond.