If you refuse to wear a mask while inside a public space, you could be fined a couple of hundreds dollars.
Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry introduced a new pandemic-related health order, mandating that masks be worn by people inside indoor public spaces, including retail stores and while walking to and from tables in restaurants and pubs.
Masks need not be worn at desks at workplaces, but must be worn by employees when they move about the workplace. The order does not apply to children under the age of two years old, nor to those who cannot wear a mask due to a physical or cognitive impairment.
That order is now part of the province’s Emergency Program Act.
Those not wearing a mask in an indoor public place or those who refuse to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, including the direction to leave the space, may be subject to a $230 fine.
Bylaws, police and other provincial enforcement officers have the power to issue the fines. For repeat offenders, police can recommend charges to Crown counsel.
There have been numerous examples in the news, provincewide, of customers of stores refusing to adhere to rules in businesses requiring masks be worn — even before doing so became a public health order.
“Working with public health officials, Emergency Management BC anticipates issuing further orders to enforce requirements for masks in common areas of apartment buildings, condos and workplaces,” a statement from the ministry reads. “This first order covers the high-traffic public settings where people who do not know each other often interact.”
“Education is key, which is why we’re having businesses review their plans and getting the word out to communities in several languages,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said.
“Businesses should provide signage on the mandatory mask policy and inform customers about the requirement. Of course, despite any range of efforts, some people will break the rules knowing full well what they’re doing. These measures give police and other enforcement officials the tools to intervene with and penalize problematic individuals and groups.”
The introduction of fines for non-compliance with the mask mandate follows a decision this past summer to issue fines of up to $2,000 to owners and organizers of venues and events that contravene pandemic-related public health orders.
Between Aug. 21 and Nov. 20, 59 such fines were issued, including 25 $2,300 tickets to owners or organizers contravening the order on gatherings and events, nine $2,300 violation tickets for contravention of the food and liquor serving premises order and 25 $230 tickets issued to people who refuse to comply with direction from law enforcement.
Additionally, since the pandemic began, police agencies in British Columbia have issued 64 fines — totalling $70,000 — to people who were in contravention of the Federal Quarantine Act.
Tuesday’s announcement of fines for those who refuse to wear masks while indoors in public spaces comes as the province recorded a daily record of 941 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, as well as 10 more deaths.