Manitoba

Manitoba Human Rights Commission reports increased calls from mandatory mask opponents

The province's human rights commission says it's receiving between 50 and 100 calls a month from people who feel the mandatory use of masks in indoor public places is a violation of their rights.

Says it's getting 50-100 calls a month complaining about mandatory mask rules

Protesters at a rally earlier this month in Steinbach, Man., hold signs critical of mandatory mask measures. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Manitoba's attempt to cut rising COVID-19 numbers appears to be paying off, officials say, but it's leading to some public anger and a sharp rise in complaints to the province's human rights commission.

"I would say our office is dealing with anywhere between 50 to 100 calls per month on the mask issue, from individuals who are telling us that they're being denied access to retail premises or being asked to wear a mask for some reason or other," Karen Sharma, the commission's acting executive director, said Wednesday.

Overall call volumes are running about 30 per cent above normal, Sharma said.

"We tell people that the province's current mask mandate, from a human rights perspective, is generally not an issue unless … that person does have a disability-related need not to wear a mask, in which case they might require some form of accommodation."

Manitoba has implemented a series of increasingly tough restrictions over the last two months as COVID-19 numbers have spiked. The most recent orders mandate mask use in all indoor public areas, require restaurants and bars to close except for takeout and delivery, and forbid people from having guests in their home with some exceptions.

The public health orders also require that when someone has come into close contact with a known COVID-19 case, that person must self-isolate, even from other members of his or her household.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said nurses and others who call known contacts of COVID-19 cases often face abuse.

"We are again hearing reports from public health contact tracers … of very angry people on the other end of the telephone line when they're advising them that they're contacts or cases and need to self-isolate," Roussin said.

"When someone is isolating … the whole purpose is that should you become a case, which a certain proportion do, you're going to have zero contacts. There's not anyone you could have passed (the virus) to."

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