EDMONTON -- Concerns of abuse have prompted the City of Edmonton to cancel a card program which identified some people as exempt from the mandatory mask bylaw.

The exemption cards were no longer available at city recreation facilities as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.

“We trust that those with legitimate exemptions have been able to obtain a card up to this point. We are reassessing the program and distribution mechanisms for those with a legitimate exemption and who may want a card but were unable to pick one up in person,” a notice reads.

As of 12 p.m. the previous day, about 3,900 exemption cards had been handed out – representing less than one half of a per cent of Edmonton’s population.

The exemption program did not require any referral or documentation identifying why a person was unable to wear a face covering – the aspect of the city’s bylaw which had been most heavily criticized since coming into effect.

Among those worried the honour system could be manipulated was Mayor Don Iveson, who had also considered the protocol a necessary tool.

“I, like many of you, have some concerns/questions with the exemption cards and how they are being distributed,” he wrote on Wednesday, before the program cancellation was announced.

“I’ll be asking questions during Thursday’s Emergency Advisory Committee including how, if at all, we can ensure people are not abusing the system.”

The city did not say if more cards will be distributed again, or if so, how.

However, any cards already handed out will remain valid.


City administration says about 85 per cent of Edmontonians are respecting the bylaw that made masking up mandatory in public.

According to the City of Edmonton, the rate nears 90 per cent and 96 per cent on city transit and in city recreation facilities, respectively.

“The pandemic has shown that the large majority of Edmontonians care about one other and are doing the right thing,” David Aitken said at City Hall on Tuesday.

“We trust that compassion will continue as those who can wear masks do so, and those who cannot are treated with understanding.”

The bylaw – passed 10-3 – came into effect Aug. 1.

Having seen the bylaw in action for nearly two weeks did not change the mind of Ward 11’s Mike Nickel, the councillor said Wednesday.

“I’m not a virologist. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a epidemiologist. I’m none of those things. I’m just a business guy,” he said, laughing, in an online video.

“When politicians get into the place where they play doctor, where they say they know more than the experts or the people who are in charge and responsible for the public health outcomes, I think there was a problem.”

The rule does not apply to anyone under the age of two, those who cannot put on or remove the mask on their own and those who cannot due to a physical or mental concern or limitation, or in educational and health care facilities.

Ward 3 Coun. Jon Dziadyk and Ward 7 Coun. Tony Caterina also opposed the rule.The bylaw – passed 10-3 – came into effect Aug. 1.