A St. Albert woman was refused entry to Chapters because of her clear mask, which she says is necessary to communicate with her disabled daughter.
On Monday, Louise Berezowsky took her daughter to the Chapters in St. Albert to pick out a book.
“Clara had worked really hard in a therapy session last week and was really looking forward to picking out a Valentine’s Day book that her teacher’s been reading to her at school,” said Berezowsky.
At the store, Berezowsky was asked by an employee to wear a fabric mask, rather than the clear mask she was already wearing.
“I explained that I couldn’t because my daughter is profoundly deaf and needs to see my face to communicate,” said Berezowsky.
Clara has CHARGE Syndrome, a genetic syndrome that can leave children with a variety of medical and physical difficulties. In Clara’s case, she is blind in one eye and deaf.
According to Berezowsky, the employee went to get his manager, who said, “We should just go shop online,” and they wouldn’t be able to enter the store without a cloth mask.
“If my face is covered she has completely no access to communication whatsoever," Berezowsky said. She is completely cut off from the rest of the world. That is completely unfair to a five-year-old. “How do you explain that to her?
“It’s absolutely traumatizing… what’s the point in having a medical exemption if we’re going to be vilified every time we go out in public?”
According to Alberta Health, “masks are mandatory in all indoor public places, places of worship, and indoor workplaces unless you qualify for an exception.”
“Based on your description, the individual was complying with the provincial order,” said Tom McMillan with Alberta Health in a statement to CTV News Edmonton.
“However, private businesses may set their own policies as long as they also meet the minimum provincial requirements,” added McMillan.
Indigo, the parent company of Chapters, has its own policy in place regarding masking inside its stores.
“We’ve made the decision to meet or exceed provincial or municipal requirements across Canada, mandating masks to be worn in-store for all employees and customers, aside from those under the age of two,” said Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick with Indigo in a statement.
Löwenborg-Frick added that Indigo offers several services to customers to “fully serve those who can’t wear masks.” Those options include curbside pickup and online shopping with home delivery.
Berezowsky posted a video on Facebook after the incident and received a “mixed bag” of comments.
“I felt that I needed to post the video and shed some light because I don’t feel these kids of the deaf community really have a voice and when they do speak up there’s a lot of backlash,” said Berezowsky.
“A lot of the comments from the St. Albert chat and the St. Albert moms group were really great but there was a lot of people who said a lot of horrific things to our family.”
Berezowsky plans to file a human rights complaint after the incident at Chapters.
“What I’d really like to see is some protocols put in place to protect people like Clara and other families out there that are experiencing the same type of backlash,” said Berezowsk.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski.