Religious Mask Exemption Causing Issues in Leamington

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Some residents in Leamington aren't getting the message when it comes to wearing a face covering.

That's according to mayor Hilda MacDonald who says complaints are piling up where offenders are claiming religious beliefs for not wearing a mask while out in public — a move that defies the town's mandatory mask bylaw.

MacDonald says she'd like to see the health unit and the province remove the religious exemption as she believes many are using it to their advantage, adding, the town and some business owners have been threatened with lawsuits.

"We've certainly had a lot of issues with anti-maskers using the religious reason for not wearing masks and it's been quite problematic," says MacDonald. "I certainly wish the province would step up and allow that not to be an adequate reason. We've been threatened with a lawsuit as have some of our businesses because of it."

She says something has got to give.

"It is causing a problem for businesses as well as for enforcement," MacDonald explains. "Enforcement is great, but when there is that loophole we sometimes get caught up in the tangles of that. So I just want to put that out there, that we are having an issue with that."

She says it's not fair for those who are following the rules.

These folks are walking around in defiance. It is making our folks who are complying with the rules and regulations angry and I would just like to see someone step up, and I'm talking higher levels, to say no, that's not a good enough excuse. This is a health issue, this is not a religious issue."

MacDonald brought the issue up at a press conference Wednesday where all area mayors pledged to step up enforcement when it comes to masks, social distancing and get-togethers exceeding provincial limits.