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.”
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.
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.
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