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

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

RCMP responded to a report early Friday morning of a suspect firing a gun at a Salmo home. Photo: Black Press
RCMP arrest woman who fired shots at Salmo home

The woman allegedly discharged a firearm early Friday morning

Summit Ski Hill had a delayed start to the season because of warm temperatures. Photo: Summit Ski Hill
Late season start frustrating for Nakusp ski hill

Summit Ski Hill only just opened Jan. 14

Four friends were heading to their home on Highway 6 just south of Silverton on the evening of Dec. 25, 2020, when the people in the front of the vehicle saw what looked like a “huge, man-like figure” on the side of the road. (Pixabay.com)
Possible Bigfoot sighting shocks, excites Silverton residents

‘I didn’t see the creature myself, I saw the prints’

A micro-cannabis cultivation facility was proposed for 1370 Forest Road. Photo: City of Castlegar
Castlegar neighbourhood celebrates after cannabis facility proposal withdrawn

A medical grade cannabis facility was proposed for Forest Road

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read