Everybody's doing it: what it's like to live in Montreal's only mandatory-mask zone, Cote-Saint-Luc

As the debate over masks rages around them, people in Cote-Saint-Luc are available now to answer all your questions on mask-wearing.

It’s been three days since their suburb officially went all-in on masks, with a bylaw in effect since July 1 requiring people to wear them in all indoor spaces open to the public.

“It’s mostly being followed,” said one resident, Stacey Bindman. “As far as the shopping centre goes, you don’t have a choice.”

Bylaws like this are interesting partly because they circumvent one of the major reasons psychologists say people aren’t wearing masks more frequently—that they just worry about looking weird.

“One of the psychological issues about mask-wearing is that it makes people feel self-conscious. And one reason for that is that it’s not a norm yet,” said Kim Lavoie, a psychology professor at UQAM.

But with a law taking care of making it a norm, and no need to worry about looking like an outlier, people in Cote-Saint-Luc say they’re adjusting.

It’s becoming habit to don a mask for every visit to a store, any other business or a municipal building, locals told CTV.

The effect seems to spread, as on any street in Cote-Saint-Luc, you’ll see people wearing them as well. With this week’s weather, however, it’s nice to have the option to slip off the mask once you step outside, people said.

“After that I don’t [keep wearing it], because it’s too hot... and you’re breathing your own air,” said one shopper, Germaine McEwan, on Friday. 

The mask question, not just in Montreal but around the world, is bearing out a lot of what psychologists already know.

It’s human nature for people to keep doing what they normally do, even in the face of strong evidence they should change, said Lavoie.

“I think we all know that overeating and over drinking is not good for us,” she said, for example. “But that's not enough for us to change behaviour.” 

Sometimes, as one local man pointed out, even though people may have accepted the evidence in favour of something, they also resist doing it because of the repeated calls to do so.

“It could be [a] ‘Who are you telling me what to do’ kind of thing,” said Avy Cohen. 

“Unfortunately… probably people aren’t thinking of other people and considering other people.”

Residents are learning there are some places where it really is hard to combine the economy’s reopening and the mask rule—particularly the gym. Gym-goers said Friday they’re trying to find breathable options. 

“It’s very hard to exercise with a mask, because you sweat,” said one woman. 

Getting comfortable is important, since people in the suburb say they expect this rule to be in place for months, “until the middle of next year, at least,” said Bindman.

If other boroughs or cities are curious about whether to do the same, now they’ll know where to look for answers.

SIGN UP NOW

Stay up-to-date and in-the-know by subscribing to one of our newsletters