Council approves mandatory face mask bylaw in Ottawa

One week after Ottawa’s medical officer of health ordered masks be worn in all indoor public settings, Council has approved a bylaw to enforce the rules for the mandatory face mask policy.

The mandatory mask bylaw for enclosed public spaces includes a fine ranging between $200 and $400 for violating the rules. Council was told the Ontario Court of Justice will set the exact fine for not wearing a face mask in indoor public spaces. 

Staff say the primary objective of the new bylaw is to “educate and inform” people about the need to wear masks, instead of issuing tickets.

Dr. Vera Etches announced last week that face masks will be mandatory in all indoor public places starting Tuesday, July 7.

Under the bylaw for mandatory face masks, you must wear a mask at:

  • Restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments
  • Retail locations
  • Places of worship
  • Sports facilities
  • Museums, theatres and other entertainment venues
  • Public areas in hotels and other short-term rental premises
  • Public areas in hospitals and other health facilities

The mandatory face mask bylaw also applies to City of Ottawa buildings and facilities, including libraries. On June 15, face masks became mandatory on all OC Transpo buses, the O-Train, in stations and on Para Transpo Vehicles. The new City of Ottawa face mask policy would cover violations on OC Transpo property.

Staff say, "As with any bylaw, or with any new public health measure, the primary objective is to educate and inform, and gain voluntary compliance."

"However a bylaw does provide a means to impose penalties through tickets should such action be deemed necessary, such as in the case where a warning is insufficient or with repeat offenders."

Emergency and Protective Services General Manager Anthony Di Monte told City Council on Wednesday that the bylaw will be in effect until Aug. 26, at which point City Council will review it and can vote to extend it, if needed.

Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard introduced a motion Wednesday to reduce the minimum fine for violating the mask bylaw to $40, arguing the proposed fine is too expensive for some residents, but it was defeated by a vote of 14 nays to 8 yeas.