Human rights tribunal places anti-maskers on discover, saying complaints require proof of disability
The BC Human Rights Tribunal has made it clear that anyone wishing to file a complaint about being asked to wear a mask in a store must actually demonstrate that they have a disability that prevents them from doing so.
In a screening ruling issued on Wednesday, Tribunal member Steven Adamson wrote that “a large body of complaints” have been filed about BC’s COVID-19 measures requiring facial coverings in indoor public spaces such as grocery stores, libraries and community centers.
The tribunal does not typically publish this type of decision, which is what determines whether a complaint contains a possible violation of the BC Human Rights Code. But Adamson said he wanted to post an anonymized example for public education purposes.
“The Code does not protect people who refuse to wear a mask for personal reasons, because they consider wearing a mask” useless “, or because they do not believe that wearing a mask is to protect the public during the pandemic contributes, “said Adamson.
“Rather, the code only protects people from discrimination based on certain personal characteristics, including disability.”
The BC Human Rights Commissioner’s Office has recommended that individuals such as shopkeepers who have brief interactions with customers should not ask for medical evidence that someone cannot wear a mask.
However, filing a human rights complaint is a different matter and requires evidence.
“Any claim to disability discrimination that arises from the requirement to wear a mask must begin with the complainant having a disability that affects his ability to wear the mask,” wrote Adamson.
The grocery customer said she had “health problems”.
The example outlined in Wednesday’s decision concerns a woman who visited her local grocery store on September 28. The identity of the business and the customer was protected by the tribunal.
The shopping spree took place before the British Columbia government introduced an order that required masks, but the store already had its own policy that required face coverings, the decision said.
The woman told the tribunal that she was stopped by a security guard because she was not wearing a mask.
Many BC grocery stores had guidelines requiring customers to wear masks before being made compulsory by the province. (Lyzaville Sale / CBC)
She says she told him she had “health problems” and when he asked for more details, she said it was private. She “stated that these things cause breathing difficulties, and [she] was therefore excluded, “said the decision.
The guard told her to put on a mask or leave. She left, but claims she heard other shop clerks refer to the mask policy as a “joke”.
Adamson said the client refused to provide information about her alleged disability to the tribunal, saying only that “it is very difficult to breathe with masks and that it causes fear”. She told the tribunal she shouldn’t have to provide private health information to a government agency.
That wasn’t good enough, said Adamson.
“I agree that any health information disclosure should be minimal and strictly limited to the purpose for which the information is needed. However, when a person asks for human rights-related accommodation, they must bring the facts on discrimination,” he said.
He also noted that despite the Human Rights Ombudsman’s recommendation, the tribunal has not yet determined how much medical information a customer must give a retailer to be exempt from the Mask Act.
Adamson said a decision on the matter would have to await a more appropriate complaint.
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