POLL — Should people be forced to wear masks?

Story by CBC Kids News • 2020-07-03 11:00

The pros and cons of mandatory masks

It’s now illegal in some parts of Canada to go into a store or get on a bus without wearing a mask.

Some people say rules like this might help stop the spread of the coronavirus in situations where physical distancing isn’t possible.

Others say it isn’t fair to force people to wear masks.

What do you think?

It’s the law

Beginning July 7, people in Toronto will have to wear masks in any indoor public spaces.

That’s already the case in places like Kingston, Ont., and Côte Saint-Luc, Que.

Masks are already required on public transit in Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and Guelph, Ont.

On July 13, the same rule will apply to anyone over the age of 12 riding public transit anywhere in Quebec.

You also need to cover your face on a ferry in B.C. and on an airplane anywhere in Canada.

In Toronto, where this photo was taken, it will be against the law to go to any indoor public place, like a store, community centre or library, without a mask as of July 7. (Image credit: Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Science behind masks

The point of a mask is to block people from spreading germs when they breathe, talk, cough or sneeze.

There is some evidence that wearing them can help stop the spread of the coronavirus, as long as you do it properly

Masks aren’t magic. You still need to do these things to protect yourself and others:

Boy with nose peaking out of his mask watches penguins at an aquarium.

A mask won’t protect you or others from COVID-19 unless it’s worn properly, and that means covering your mouth and nose. (Image credit: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

The pros

Forcing people to wear masks makes sense, said Kim Lavoie, a psychology professor at the University of Quebec, because not wearing one could put other people at risk.

It doesn’t stomp on your personal freedoms any more than a rule that forces you to wear a seatbelt, she said, and those laws save lives.

Mask laws are the key to getting back to “regular life,” said Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

"We think it's sort of low-hanging fruit and a no-brainer," Fisman said.

Kids wear masks as they line up for school on the playground.

Will back-to-school masks become a thing this September? We’ll have to wait and see. (Image credit: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

The other good thing about making masks mandatory, according to Mitsutoshi Horii, sociology professor at Chaucer College in Canterbury, England, is that it makes people feel less self-conscious about wearing them.

“I still feel embarrassed to wear a mask,” said Horii, so it helps to have “a bit of a push to do it.”

Given that masks “reduce the risks to others,” we have a “social responsibilty” to wear them when we can, said Kate Mulligan, an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

The cons

Still, there are some drawbacks.

Mulligan points out that masks can put Black and Indigenous people at risk because of racist attitudes that mean “they may be perceived as a safety risk” if their faces are covered.

Masks also don’t work for people with health conditions that make it hard to breathe, such as asthma, or for people who are hearing impaired and rely on lip reading, Mulligan said.

In some cases, masks are being handed out for free. In other cases, people are making DIY masks instead of buying them. (Image credit: Musa Al Shaer/AFP via Getty Images)

While some officials are making exceptions for people who can’t wear masks, it isn’t fair to ask store employees, bus drivers and others to be the ones to enforce the rules, said Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“I don't know if we want our bus drivers and our grocery cashiers to be interrogating people about their health status to try and decide who can get an exemption and who can't,” she said.

Also, while there are plans in place to hand out free masks in certain situations, some people won’t be covered.

“Many people might not have the means to buy a mask or may not have the means to make one," said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute.


TOP IMAGE CREDIT: (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

With files from Amina Zafar, Emily Chung/CBC News


CLARIFICATION: On July 10, we added a couple of lines to this story to better explain Kate Mulligan’s position on masks.

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