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

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

The BC Wildfire Service will be partnering with Simpcw First Nation this month in the implementation of a prescribed burn next to their community of Chu Chua. The controlled burn will be highly visible to Highway 5 and all communities in the immediate area. Pictured is a prescribed burn that took place on the Kanaka Bar Reserve last month in partnership with the Kanaka Bar Band and BC Wildfire Service. (BC Wildfire Service Facebook photo)
Simpcw and BC Wildfire Service to hold controlled burn near Barriere

Burn will be highly visible to Chu Chua, Barriere, Darfield, Chinook Cove, Little Fort and Highway 5

Carlos Sigurnjak went missing about 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 6, according to a Facebook post by his family. (Facebook/Carlos Sigurnjak profile)
UPDATE: Clearwater RCMP find missing man from Kelowna

Sigurnjak was found just before 2 p.m. April 8 by a passerby.

The Peach is adhering to the mandatory mask protocols put in place by the Provincial Health Officer on Nov. 19. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Interior Health doesn’t echo B.C.’s daily COVID record

80 new cases reported Thursday, April 8, compared to 91 the day prior

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Most Read