B.C. health minister responds to human rights office’s letter on ‘hasty end’ to mask mandate
B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner is calling on provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to bring back the COVID-19 mask mandate, saying its “hasty end” will have “profoundly unequal effects” on society.
“While many of us have the good fortune to simply move on with life, thousands of British Columbians will be left behind because of their age, disability, or other protected characteristic under B.C.’s Human Rights Code,” Kasari Govender says in a letter released on Monday.
“Indigenous peoples and racialized people are overrepresented in high-transmission work environments,” she adds as an example, “and are at greater risk because of higher incidences of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.”
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The mask mandate for public indoor spaces was dropped on March 11, while students in the K-to-12 system had to wear them until they return to class following March break.
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Govender also mentions seniors and people with disabilities who may feel they still have to isolate, as well as parents who are medically vulnerable having to choose whether to send their child to school or keep them home to protect their own health.
“It is understandable that after two years of the global pandemic, many people are tired of wearing masks,” the commissioner says in her letter. “But the requirement to wear a mask in indoor public spaces is a comparatively minor infringement on an individual’s autonomy and an inconvenience in exercising one’s rights.”
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Asked about the letter in Question Period on Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said officials carefully consider public health measures so that they don’t interfere with people’s behaviour more than is necessary to stop the spread of the virus.
“Those who are clinically vulnerable have been more the focus of our efforts as a government and of the provincial health officer’s efforts than anywhere else in Canada,” Dix said.
“No one has focused, in terms of vaccination, on the clinically vulnerable and as effectively and as substantively as we have. We will continue to do that.”
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