COVID-19 rules: B.C. tribunal's decision sets precedent for mask wearing, lawyer says

The right of a person not to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic is not black and white, a B.C. civil rights lawyer says, explaining medical exceptions need to be proven.

In an interview with CTV Morning Live, Meghan McDermott pointed to a recent B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision that says anyone denied service for refusing to wear a mask must be ready to prove they have a disability if they intend to file a complaint.

“In this case, the decision that was shared, it was a store, just somebody trying to go shopping. And they didn’t provide any information to the security at the store. But then, once they filed the complaint with the tribunal, also failed to share any information,” McDermott said. “You can’t just say it’s uncomfortable.”

In the decision, published March 31, the tribunal said the human rights code doesn't protect people who won't wear a mask "as a matter of personal preference, because they believe wearing a mask is 'pointless,' or because they disagree that wearing masks helps to protect the public during the pandemic."

McDermott says the tribunal doesn't always make these decisions public, adding the B.C. Civil Liberties Association continues to receive a lot of similar complaints.

“In order to engage these types of discrimination mechanisms you really need to have a valid reason and something that’s backed up with facts," McDermott said.

"The public really needs to be educated about this and about where our rights start and stop. It’s really devastating to see how the front line workers are being treated by some members of the public. I hope this goes to provide more safety to everybody.”

Meghan McDermott's comments were part of an interview with CTV Morning Live. Watch the full interview in the video player above.