Montreal

STM to hand out 1.5 million masks by fall, but wearing them won't be mandatory

The STM’s chair, Philippe Schnobb, says that with hundreds of thousands returning to work in Montreal, wearing a mask should become commonplace on public transport.

Plante says she wants wearing masks on public transit to become 'a social norm'

STM workers handed out masks at Metro stations in Laval and Montreal Monday morning. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

As more business reopen in Montreal, the city's public transit authority says it will hand out 1.5 million free masks to its clients by early fall.

The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) says that while wearing masks will continue to be voluntary, they want it to become the norm as hundreds of thousands of Montrealers return to work.  

Politicians and a brigade of STM workers handed out masks at Metro stations in Laval and Montreal Monday morning.

Exo will also be giving out masks to those boarding its commuter trains.

"I think that from now on, someone who doesn't wear a mask will look strange," said STM Chair Philippe Schnobb.

"I was pretty surprised on the Metro this morning seeing a good proportion of people were wearing a mask, so the exception will be awkward."

He says that's an improvement from last week.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante hands out masks alongside STM employees in a Montreal Metro station Monday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Mandatory masks not out of the question

Quebec's public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said earlier this month that if physical-distancing regulations aren't respected, making masks legally mandatory is not out of the question.

But he said that masks must be made accessible to all, especially more vulnerable populations.

"When you make things compulsory, those who cannot afford it should not be discriminated against," Arruda said.

Several other major cities, including Paris and New York, have made masks mandatory for public transit users.

WATCH | Montreal mayor hands out masks

As more people start heading back to work, local politicians join public transit staff in distributing masks. For now, the masks are recommended, but not mandatory. 0:59

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante handed out masks alongside STM employees in Langelier Metro station on Monday. At a city council meeting later that day, she said she would not make masks mandatory because other levels of government haven't done so, either.

But she asked Montrealers to wear them to protect themselves, and others.

"It's nearly impossible to maintain two metres' distance in public transit. So, wear your mask," Plante said. "We are really trying to encourage people, sensitize them and help this become a social norm."

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