P.E.I. liquor stores now allowing medical masks, following customer complaint

An Island woman who was denied service at a P.E.I. liquor store for wearing a medical mask, says she's pleased the liquor commission has changed its policy. 

Island woman says she was twice denied service, despite having medical condition requiring mask

Robin MacLeod says she has a compromised immune system, and wears medical masks like this one when inside stores to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. (Submitted by Robin MacLeod)

An Island woman who was twice denied service at P.E.I. liquor stores for wearing a medical mask, says she's pleased the province's liquor commission has changed its policy. 

Robin MacLeod says she has a compromised immune system and lung condition, and is required to wear a medical mask in public to limit the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

In mid-March, just as the pandemic was taking hold in Canada, MacLeod says she stopped into Charlottetown's Queen Street liquor store, and was told by staff she'd have to remove the mask to stay in the store and make a purchase.

How dare a business of any allowed to refuse service to any of the many, many people needing to protect their health.- Robin MacLeod


She says she disclosed her medical condition and the need for the mask to staff, but was again told she'd have to take it off while in the store, so she could be properly identified. 

"They said they do the same thing with Halloween masks," she said. "I was taken aback when I was refused...I'm not stealing. I've got my wallet and my bottle of wine."

According to the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission, it didn't allow masks to be worn in its stores for security reasons, and so customers could be properly identified. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

MacLean left without making a purchase, and called the P.E.I Liquor Control Commission. She says she shared her concerns with a regional director. 

"I said this is a health risk, for everyone, let alone people with compromised immune systems. So I think you need to update your policy," she said. 

Email to finance minister 

But MacLeod says a couple weeks later, in early April, she ran into the exact same issue at the Oak Tree liquor store in Charlottetown.

She says she offered to lower her mask and show her ID, but was told "No, if you don't remove your mask for the entire visit, you'll be refused service."

She then emailed P.E.I. finance minister Darlene Compton. 

"How dare a business of any kind, let alone a provincially regulated one, be allowed to refuse service to any of the many, many people needing to protect their health and life by wearing a medical mask during a world wide pandemic that is killing tens of thousands of people?" MacLeod said in her email. 

'No be discriminatory'

The acting CEO of the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission, responded to MacLeod in an email the following day. 

"Under normal operations...policy requires removal of any type of mask upon entry until subsequent departure, as the store is age-restricted and for security reasons," said Jamie MacLeod, who is not related to Robin. 

"Please rest assured that there was absolutely no intention by security or staff to be discriminatory or cause humiliation. Personnel were simply following our policies and procedures."

Masks now permitted 

The CEO went on to explain in the email that MacLeod's concerns had prompted a policy change, which was published on the commission's website Friday. 

Customers with a medical mask "must reveal their face so that identity can be confirmed."

Once that happens, "the medical mask may be pulled back up/put back on."

MacLeod says while she's frustrated P.E.I.'s Liquor Control Commission didn't publish its new policy sooner, she's pleased she and others will now be permitted to wear marks in liquor stores. (Submitted by Robin MacLeod)

MacLeod says she's frustrated it took the commission so long to post its new policy, and to make the public aware. But she's pleased to see the changes. 

"They should have addressed it sooner. But it's a fair compromise," said MacLeod. "It'll give a sigh of relief to some people like me...that we are going to be welcomed and served."

No one from the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission was available for an interview Friday. 

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