A Chatham-Kent business says it will continue to hang its welcome sign for mask exempt customers, no questions asked, after the store was reported to bylaw enforcement.
The sign reads “We accept all non-mask exemptions — Our job is health, not politics.”
Co-owner of Gaia Holistic Wellness Centre, Kim Iles says the mandatory mask bylaw in Chatham-Kent has created division.
“The bylaw officer came to our store, checked everything out, saw how we were handling everything and basically that was it,” she said. “There were no infractions. So the sign still stays on our door to this day.”
Iles tells CTV News that there have been no fines issued since and the store remains compliant with the local mask bylaw, she says the way her store is set up allows customers to breathe easy, with measures in place to respect concerns of contracting the virus.
“I had a decision to make, do I take the sign down before the officer comes? Or do I stand my ground and this is what we believe in and this is what we offer, and how safe we’ve provided the atmosphere here,” she says. “So I left the sign.”
Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby says to date, there have been no traceable cases of COVID-19 to any retail environments in the municipality.
He confirms the store owners were not in violation of the mask bylaw, when the complaint was made in mid-August.
“They’re not allowed to ask for proof or required to ask for proof of what that contraindication is,” Colby says.
He tells CTV News that success of the bylaw depends on science and the honour system.
“We’re counting on the goodwill of people to not abuse that and basically abide by the bylaw,” Colby says.
The bylaw came into effect Aug. 14, 2020.
The store is situated immediately next door to the Word of Life Church where more than 30 people associated tested positive for COVID-19 while hundreds of other Chatham-Kent residents self-isolated in October.
Iles says she was shocked when she heard.
“Hit me in my heart more than anything because I know the good that they do, I see it every day,” she says.
Iles says she does not believe staying open is keeping her customers at risk.
“It’s a lot of fear and it’s a lot of division in communities and I think that’s the worst part,” she says.