UPDATE: Council has approved a bylaw approving mandatory face coverings, and providing signs for public places. Enforcement is to first take the form of education and voluntary compliance. There is no penalty or fine included for non-compliance.
A special council meeting has been called for Thursday to discuss making face coverings mandatory in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero told councillors Monday she would have preferred for regional council to make that decision, but at a special council meeting called for that reason, the decision was deferred.
“I was quite disappointed when regional council chose not to deal with it on Wednesday. I would have actually preferred a yes or a no, rather than a deferral,” she said.
Disero has been an outspoken supporter of face coverings, and says she has been receiving emails from residents and store owners saying “they feel very uncomfortable and are afraid.”
Store owners tell her they can’t make it mandatory without the support of legislation, she said.
She called for the special meeting for the purpose of approving a draft bylaw with respect to face coverings in indoor spaces. Face shields, bandanas or scarves, and also the plexiglass in front of cashiers, would also be considered face coverings, she said.
She told councillors she has support from the Chamber of Commerce chair, the Virgil Business Association, the CEO of the Shaw Festival, and representatives from the wineries.
“It seems to me this is probably one of the major ways that we could assist our businesses and help Niagara-on-the-Lake move towards phase 3,” she said, as well as controlling the potential for COVID to spread.”
On Monday, some areas of Ontario were given the green light for moving into phase 3 of recovery, with more business reopenings, but Niagara was not included.
“If this was something where people decided they were not going to protect themselves, and the masks were being worn to protect themselves, maybe we would think differently, but if we don’t put in a bylaw, this allows people to affect others, and that’s the most concerning to me,” said Disero.
“We need to protect the health and safety of everyone. The decision not to wear a face covering for five, 10, 15 minutes when you go into a store doesn’t affect the person making the decision, it affects others.”
A draft bylaw will be available for councillors and the public to see by Wednesday. The time of Thursday’s meeting had not been announced at press time.