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B.C. Human Rights Commissioner calls for mask mandate to be reinstated

Kasari Govender says the lifting of the mandate harms the human rights of thousands in B.C.
A person bundled up in a heavy jacket for the cold weather wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Vancouver, on Tuesday, December 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, has penned a letter to provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, calling for the mask mandate to be reinstated.

“The hasty end to the provincial mask mandate will have profoundly unequal effects across society,” Govender wrote. “Some of us are more vulnerable than others to the virus, and public health policy must consider these disproportionate impacts. Marginalized groups include immuno-compromised people, older people, Indigenous and racialized peoples, people with disabilities, and low-income communities.”

B.C. announced lifted the mask mandate on March 11 for most public spaces and schools would no longer require masks once students returned from spring break. Masks are still required in public health settings, B.C.’s law courts and for people who have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days.

READ MORE: Mask mandate lifts in B.C. Friday, COVID vaccine card program to end April 8

Govender said the lifting of the mandate has “inequitable impacts”, particularly on people who are disabled, immuno-compromised or seniors. Without assurances that people they encounter will wear a mask, many people at high risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19 will isolate themselves from society or be forced to risk serious illness, even death, to participate in daily activities.

“Given the benefits of the mask mandate for thousands of marginalized people and the minimal impact on those being asked to wear one, the balance at this time favours continuing the mask mandate,” Govender wrote. “That people dislike wearing masks is not a compelling argument when weighed against the rights of others to life, security of the person, and equal participation in social and economic life.”

The province has not responded to Govender’s letter. However, B.C. has given no indication that it plans to reinstate the mask mandate any time soon.

B.C. is set to lift the vaccine card requirement on April 8. Health Minister, Adrian Dix and Dr. Henry are expected to give a news briefing before April 8 to discuss the details of how the program will come to an end.


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