Tribunal member Steven Adamson wrote in a screening decision Wednesday, B.C.’s Human Rights Code “only protects people from discrimination” and does not apply to those who prefer not to wear a mask. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Tribunal member Steven Adamson wrote in a screening decision Wednesday, B.C.’s Human Rights Code “only protects people from discrimination” and does not apply to those who prefer not to wear a mask. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Can’t wear a mask? Be prepared to prove it, B.C. Human Rights Tribunal rules

The body says it has received ‘a large number’ of mask-wearing complaints alleging discrimination

After receiving a large volume of complaints B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has set the record straight about the rights of people who refuse to wear masks.

People who report being told to wear a mask as discrimination must be ready to verify the disability that prevents them from doing so.

Tribunal member Steven Adamson wrote in a screening decision Wednesday, B.C.’s Human Rights Code “only protects people from discrimination based on certain personal characteristics.”

He said it doesn’t apply to those who refuse to wear a mask “because they believe wearing a mask is ‘pointless’ or because they disagree that wearing masks helps to protect the public during the pandemic.”

READ MORE: Masks mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces

This, in response to a grocery store customer who filed a human rights complaint after a security guard asked her to wear a mask on Sept. 28.

At the time, the province’s mask mandate was not yet in effect.

The woman refused to disclose why she would not wear a mask, other than claiming they cause “breathing difficulties” and “anxiety.”

The grocery store stood firm on its mask-wearing policy. The woman left the store, alleging she heard employees call the measure a “hoax.”

Adamson has dismissed the complaint.

RELATED: No mask, no service? Businesses have the right to require masks on customers

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the tribunal has received “a large number” of mask-wearing complaints.

B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner advises, “if a person claims a mask exception, take them at their word. Proof should not be required.”

However, filing a human rights complaint is a different matter, Adamson said. It requires evidence.

“Any claim of disability discrimination arising from a requirement to wear a mask must begin by establishing that the complainant has a disability that interferes with their ability to wear the mask.”

The tribunal has not yet defined the scope of medical information a customer should be required to reveal in order to be exempt from wearing a mask.

Adamson said a future ruling will likely provide more clarification on that matter.

READ MORE: Abbotsford parents protest mandatory masks in school (SLIDESHOW)



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

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