Edmonton council to debate mandatory masks bylaw
EDMONTON -- Less than a day after the City of Calgary voted to make masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces, officials in Edmonton have called an emergency meeting to debate the issue.
Like many in Edmonton and around the world, carrying a mask is now a habit for Ward 1 Coun. Andrew Knack.
"I won’t go into an indoor space where people aren’t wearing masks and you don’t see physical distancing occurring," said Knack. "I think at this stage the science is now looking quite clear the benefit of masks in helping to reduce the transmission of the virus."
Knack says he understands some feel mandating masks is "government overreach," and that people's freedoms are being infringed on.
"Does your personal freedom outweigh the safety and health of society as a whole? And there’s not an easy answer to be fair. I actually get why people express so much concern and hesitation," said Knack.
Edmonton's debate comes after Calgary city council passed a bylaw Tuesday that requires people to wear masks in all indoor public buildings and public transit.
"We think a one-size-fits-all approach for a huge vast diverse province like this doesn't make sense," said Premier Jason Kenney when asked about Calgary's new bylaw at a Wednesday news conference.
"The challenges a very dense city might face on crowded buses couldn't be more different than a remote rural municipality."
Kenney said public education and making masks available to the population is the best approach for the province.
"I've been advocating for widespread use of masks where people cannot physically distance long before the Public Health Agency of Canada and World Health Organization were doing so," said Kenney.
It's a decision some think should be made by the province, including Mayor Don Iveson.
In a statement Mayor Iveson said he's disappointed Alberta isn't enforcing mandatory mask wearing.
"I'm focused on keeping Edmontonians as safe as possible, so exploring a mandatory mask bylaw is a practical next step for city council," said Iveson.
"If it’s good for Calgary and we’re seeing similar case levels now why isn’t Edmonton following suit," said Knack. "I think we owe it to everyone to have that conversation sooner rather than later."
Knack says he doesn't like the fact that city councillors would be making the final decision instead of the province, but if they have to, they should be making it with the best medical advice and expertise.
"It’s been a strong recommendation for a number of weeks, what five, six weeks now we’ve had a strong recommendation and people still aren’t getting it," said Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room doctor and member of Masks 4 Canada.
Advocates for mask wearing say this isn't the first issue that people have called an "infringement of their freedom."
"We saw this with seatbelts in the '80s, we saw this with bike helmets in the early 2000s and people don’t do what they are strongly recommended," said Dr. Vipond. "They do when they’re told that as a society your expectation as a citizen is to do x, y or z."
The Emergency Advisory Committee meeting on mandatory masks is set for Thursday, July 23.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson