Vermilion town council openly discussed the possibility of introducing a temporary masking bylaw last week after becoming an enhanced health zone.
Some councillors were forward feeling that the issue should be looked at very seriously, while others were more reserved feeling that encouragement would benefit more than enforcement.
Mayor Caroline McAuley said she had been approached by businesses who were challenged with customers coming in unmasked and felt it would be supportive to have the town determine a decision.
She said even though there is no provincial bylaw, they have seen a number of municipalities establish one as they move into “purple zones” and would consider creating something similar.
“This is not a normal virus — this is a pandemic and people are dying from this,” said Councillor Robert Pulyk.
“COVID is not going to go away for a while and I think if we can do our part to help, I would certainly be in favour of a bylaw. We have a few tools as leaders even if its 0.2 per cent, I’m willing to do this – to me its pretty important. If you don’t have a bylaw, it makes it pretty difficult to ask somebody to put a mask on.”
Councillor Richard Yaceyko said he had noticed more people wearing masks, and had some reservations about creating a bylaw.
“For the majority of people, I think they use common sense, said Yaceyko.
“There might be the odd one that really doesn’t care.”
He said he wasn’t sure, but wasn’t 100 per cent in favour. He wasn’t sure how enforceable the potential bylaw would be, and said he had probably been guilty himself of going into a store without one.
Deputy mayor Clint McCullough, said that at the time he was not for imposing a bylaw, but was willing to look at it further. In addition, he said they would maybe know more on December 15, after the province releases more measures.
“I’ve had a tough time with this one — a few businesses would really like us to implement a bylaw, and a few really don’t want to have to wear a mask around work,” said McCullough.
“I struggle after ready case studies – I don’t want to be infringing on anyone’s freedoms. If we have a bylaw, we can’t really enforce it – the RCMP has enough to do, and our Peace Officer has enough to do.”
Councillor Pulyk asked if it was possible to have someone from AHS present to council at their next meeting in order to help demystify things in order to help them make some decisions.
Mayor McAuley said there are studies in every direction, but AHS has said that wearing a mask makes a difference.
“We are not epidemiologists and I’m not willing to debate the science,” said McAuley.
“Some will be encouraged and discouraged either way. I think we should start role modelling it and as leaders, perhaps it’s an opportunity to begin the conversation. This is by no means the only step – wash your hands, don’t leave home when you are sick, etc.”
Council and staff agreed to implement an end date if anything should be passed. There was a consensus around the table to wait and revisit the issue at their next council meeting.
If you are a business or individual in Vermilion who would like to share your opinion on a potential masking bylaw within the community, you can contact the Town of Vermilion in writing at [email protected] or [email protected]. For more information, you can call. 780-853-5358.