Winnipeggers skeptical about lifting indoor mask mandate as fourth wave looms

Some Winnipeg business owners and residents say the decision to remove a mask mandate indoors is too rash and hasty — sending them into fear, panic and anger. 

Businesses say they embrace the lifting of capacity limits

Jillian Zdunich, owner of Shop Take Care, said it's unfair for small businesses to shoulder the burden of enforcing public safety measures. (Submitted by Jillian Zdunich)

Some Winnipeg business owners and residents say the decision to remove a mask mandate indoors is too rash and hasty — sending them into fear, panic and anger. 

On Tuesday, the province said masks will no longer be required for indoor public places. The loosening of public health restrictions takes effect this Saturday. 

"As a small business owner, I'm panicked," said Jillian Zdunich, owner of Shop Take Care in the Exchange District and Osborne Village. 

Zdunich said the decision shows a "lack of proper leadership" as it comes days after public health officials warned of a fourth wave driven by the more contagious delta variant of concern.

Her business will still mandate masks for customers but it's unfair the onus is on staff to enforce public safety measures, she said. 

"We risk our staff being on the front lines having to deal with potentially angry customers who get turned away for not adhering to the mask rules. It just leaves us all in a really vulnerable position," said Zdunick.

"It's a lot to put on the shoulders of small businesses." 

Most vulnerable at risk: Oak Table staff 

Emma Dalgleish works at Oak Table, an organization that serves meals to people who are homeless. She was angry when she heard the news.

"I don't feel protected whatsoever, especially with the community that I'm working with. I don't think it's safe for us, nor them, to not be wearing masks," she said. 

Emma Dalgleish, who works with Oak Table, said she was angry when she heard the news. She said making indoor masks voluntary will put people who are homeless at risk. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Dalgleish said many people they serve can't get vaccinated or might be immunocompromised, so there shouldn't be a reason why they should stop wearing masks. 

"They don't have masks [or] have the money to buy these kind of things to protect themselves. If they don't see it's mandatory, then they might not want to protect themselves as much, and I'm just worried about them," she said.

Oak Table will continue enforcing mandatory masks for their space indoors and if people don't wear them, they can only get their meals outside, said Dalgleish.

'What they think is right, I have to follow' 

Jonny Lee, owner of Chosabi restaurant on Portage Avenue said he anticipated the restriction would be lifted eventually, but didn't expect it to be so soon. 

"It's a little bit too early to lose the restriction for the masks. There's still that virus going on in the city and then in Canada," said Lee. 

Jonny Lee poses with his daughter outside his restaurant Chosabi on Portage Avenue. Lee said he's looking forward to having dine-in customers again, but believes it's too soon to be lifting the indoor mask mandate. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

"Wearing masks is not only for protecting yourself, it's protecting other people," he said. 

But despite feeling like the decision is premature, Lee said he won't be mandating masks in his restaurant — not when it's not enforced by the province. 

"Obviously, if I just take the restriction on by myself, then some people may not like it and I still need customers to support myself," said Lee. "So if they decide what they think is right, then I have to follow."

Many will keep masks on 

Amos Bridgman, an economics student, said he believes the lifting of restrictions is "moving too fast." 

"I think it is reckless, absurd, ill-advised," he said. 

Marnie Klassen, undergraduate student, said her decision to continue wearing masks indoors was prompted by her recent visit to B.C., where masks are also no longer mandated indoors.

"It makes me a little nervous," she said."The few times I would be in larger public spaces, it felt pretty uncomfortable."

WATCH | Winnipeggers weigh in on lifting the mask mandate:

Lifting the mask mandate

2 years ago
Duration 1:35
Masks will no longer mandatory for indoor spaces starting Saturday. We asked Winnipeggers what they thought about this and the change is not sitting well with some.

Evan Zhai, a product designer who works from home, said he's concerned about entering smaller shops where people don't have face coverings, but not so much for big box retailers. 

"I still prefer to put my mask on, especially, you see the delta variant is creating more and more new cases and that's really my concern," he said. 

Lifting capacity limits 

Despite being skeptical about making masks voluntary, many business owners say they're excited about the lifting of capacity limits.

"I think it's super positive. It's a good indication that our economy is going to turn back to the way it was," said Ravi Ramberran, owner of Four Crowns Restaurant and Bar. 

Ravi Ramberran, owner of Four Crowns Restaurant and Bar, said he trusts the advice of chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin when it comes to the masks mandate. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

"That being said, we're not going to add in a bunch more tables. We've only got 50 per cent of the tables out there. We're going to keep that for now and see how it goes," said Ramberran. 

Lee said he's looking forward to allowing dine-in at his small restaurant again — something he hadn't been able to do since March 2020. 

"Even when the government allowed 25 per cent, 50 per cent [capacity], we were not ready to open," he said. "We lost many customers at that time.… I hope that those customers come back again."

The new public health orders are in place until Sept. 7.


Peggy Lam


Peggy is a reporter for CBC News, based in Vancouver. She's interested in stories about medicine, health care and accountability. She has a master's degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in human geography. You can reach her at