Legault says masks aren't mandatory but he wants people to wear them in stores

Enclosed spaces like stores are some of the riskier places to be when it comes to spreading COVID-19.

And though no Quebecers are being forced to wear a mask when shopping, some business owners have taken it upon themselves to create strict rules on their own property.

“We get some customers who say ‘Why do I have to wear a mask?’" said Ben Kim, the store manager at a Korean and Japanese grocery store.

“They complain,” he said, but “If they don't want it then they're not allowed inside—that's it.”

Premier François Legault has asked people to wear masks in stores. But the government hasn’t made it mandatory, Legault has said, because if it did then it would need to have enough masks to hand out to everyone.

Even so, Legault is increasing his requests to adopt masks voluntarily.

“I think it's becoming important to wear the mask more than it was a few days or few weeks ago,” Legault said Wednesday.

Experts agree. Mitch Shulman, a doctor at the Royal Victoria Hospital, says wearing a mask is a way to protect your neighbours, on top of handwashing and social distancing.

“You wear the face mask…in case you are an asymptomatic individual who can spread the virus,” Shulmer said.

“We know it will work. We know if everyone wears a mask when they go out it will work,” he said. “The point is to get everyone to wear a mask, whether they think they're sick or not.”

The government would face other problems if it tried to make masks mandatory, says lawyer Julius Grey. Such an order would likely violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, though there’s some nuance.

“It would not be reasonable to say you have to wear it at home. I think on the street it would be excessive,” Grey said. 

“But in enclosed spaces, on public transport, in stores, in schools, in offices, I think it would pass muster,” he said.

Though the official rules may get no stronger than they are now, social norms will likely keep shifting, experts hope, between business owners, politicians' requests and the public.

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