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B.C. retailers, teachers react to mandatory mask order

Last Updated Nov 20, 2020 at 7:47 am PST

FILE - Packages of face masks. (CITYNEWS/Tony Fera)

Greg Wilson with the Retail Council of Western Canada says this move is key in advance of the holiday shopping season

The BC Teachers' Federation, which has been pushing for a mask mandate, is encouraging members to mask up in schools

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — An order mandating masks in B.C.’s indoor public spaces is being welcomed by retailers. But the province’s teachers’ union is encouraging members to take matters into their own hands in the absence of such an order in schools.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a province-wide order Thursday requiring masks in “all public indoor settings and workplaces,” with the exception of schools.

Greg Wilson with the Retail Council of Western Canada says this move is key ahead of the holiday season.

“I’m certain every British Columbian understands that retail stores, their most important sales season is coming up, so it’s really important for us to remain open. As part of that, and keeping our customers and employees safe it’s important to us that people wear masks in stores,” he says.

RELATED: Mandatory masks in indoor public spaces among new B.C. COVID-19 restrictions

While businesses have introduced policies requiring masks, the new order will serve to strengthen and reinforce them.

“You can put up a ‘Please Wear a Mask’ sign, and somebody may walk right by it without noticing it. Now we have the benefit of Dr. Henry making it clear that it is the law of the land that people should be wearing masks in indoor public spaces such as retail stores,” he explains.

According to Wilson, in the absence of clear direction from the province, staff were being challenged by customers who did not want to abide by a particular store’s policy.

“Those who are unhappy with the requirement, it’s important that they don’t take it out on retail workers,” he says.

“This has been one of the very disappointing things about the past few weeks is that a number of retail establishments have had mask requirements but some of their employees had bad experiences from customers who weren’t willing to wear masks.”

Teachers continues to push for masks

Meantime, the BC Teachers’ Federation, which has been pushing for a mask mandate in schools took to Twitter to encourage members to lead by example by wearing masks in classrooms.

The union points out that individual schools have instituted mask requirements, but says teachers in schools where there is no such policy can influence the norms and culture.

We cannot control the decisions made by the PHO, but we can take charge of our own workspaces the best we can. Let’s #maskup and protect each other and encourage students to do the same,” reads a Tweet.