City of Edmonton facing backlash over mandatory mask exemption cards, more than 1,660 doled out in early days


Summary generated on August 11, 2020

    "I think most Edmontonians, the vast majority of Edmontonians, are going to be responsible people who care for the community and do the right thing. I'm hopeful in the end this is not going to be a big issue."

    In addressing the new program about 72 hours after it was made public, city spokeswoman Chrystal Coleman said requiring proof from a doctor would be cumbersome on the health-care system.

    "City staff are not in a position to assess health information, were it presented to us by an individual. As such, obtaining a card is based on the honour system and the city trusts Edmontonians will view and use this program the way it was intended and not use it as a way to avoid wearing a mask or face covering when they are otherwise able to do so," Coleman said in a Monday afternoon statement.

    The cards were introduced in response to people with legitimate exemptions being challenged or made uncomfortable for not wearing a mask, Coleman said.

    The city expects compliance to remain high and the first week of patrols found upwards of 80 per cent of people wearing masks, Coleman said.

    Peace officers have observed more than 80 per cent compliance during their patrols and 80 to 90 per cent compliance specifically in city recreation centres and on the transit system.

    Rew Knack said he hopes this level of compliance doesn't drop as more exemption cards are issued, otherwise the city might need to rethink the decision.

    He is waiting to see if these cards provide a solution for the challenges cited by the city.

    The first week of the law was successful, Klassen said, but now she is concerned the exemption cards will have the opposite effect and decrease comfort level.

    "We are actively supportive of protecting the public and that means protecting the livelihood of businesses."