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Yellowknife city council is considering making non-medical masks a requirement in public spaces.

Mayor and council are pondering whether to maintain the status quo – which is voluntary use – making masks mandatory on city transit; making them mandatory on city transit and in city-owned-and-operated facilities; or making them mandatory in all indoor public spaces through bylaws.

Kerry Penney, the city of Yellowknife’s manager of legal services, presented four options for council to consider regarding a bylaw for non-medical masks. The city is expected to finalize the bylaw later this month. 
NNSL file photo

Councillors present at a Monday meeting were divided in their opinions on the latter two options. They will discuss the issue further at the Aug. 17 governance priorities committee meeting.

If approved, a bylaw could be put in place following the Aug. 24 regular council meeting.

“The discussion or question of face coverings and masks has really been heating up over the last month or so and that’s in the wake of reopening among cities across the country, as well as the increased likelihood of more businesses opening and people going back to what we call normal life, including school and work,” said Kerry Penney, the city’s manager of legal services.

Penney noted that masks may help people maintain physical distancing of the two metres.

“There’s some literature that says making masks mandatory seems to improve compliance with the physical distancing requirements… when people see a mask, it signals to them that they should keep apart,” she said.

In any instance where masks are made mandatory, bylaw enforcement would be carried out by the city’s municipal enforcement division.

Council also saw a fifth option where they would not have to create a bylaw but where the territorial chief public health officer would mandate non-medical masks at city facilities, something that has not been required to date.

Some municipalities across the country have already taken measures to create bylaws for people to wear masks, council heard. Among them are Calgary and Edmonton. Both bylaws in those cases include the requirement that people wear non-medical masks when in city indoor facilities.

Mayor Rebecca Alty and administrative staff stated that the corporate requirements of customers wearing masks may prove a way for the city to introduce a similar measure without facing too much criticism.

On Wednesday, Walmart stores across Canada, including the one in Yellowknife, implemented a policy that requires all store customers to wear non-medical masks while shopping.

Coun. Niels Konge said he likes the idea of being able to protect workers and making masks mandatory in all public spaces. He pointed out that the city requires the public to take safety precautions like wearing seatbelts and council could support businesses by taking a lead on public health.

“As a council, if we were to do that, we could make it easier for  small businesses,” he said. “If ABC hardware makes it mandatory, they are putting themselves out there through social media, whether it is right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. If we make the decision that indoors we make it mandatory to wear a mask, we take away a lot of the stress from (businesses) in the city.”

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. He came from Prince Edward County, Ont., and obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University...

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  1. This Yellowknifer is not split on the decision – the answer is no, we do not need mandatory use of masks. If you feel better wearing one, then by all means, wear one.
    I note on CBC news this AM, one of the trailers said “Yellowknifers okay with wearing masks at Walmart”. For the record, this Yellowknifer is not okay with Walmart’s decision. Have not had a case since early April and mandatory wearing of masks is not warranted.