Saskatchewan

North Battleford going back to mask mandates at city-run facilities

North Battleford is joining other municipalities in going back to mandatory masking in all city-run facilities.

City council expresses frustration with province's lack of direction

The northwest zone, which includes North Battleford, had 580 known active cases on Tuesday. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

North Battleford is joining other municipalities in going back to mandatory masking in all city-run facilities.

Mayor David Gillan said he and the rest of council are "very frustrated" with the provincial government, because public health is the responsibility of the province.

"You know, this pandemic was managed by the province, and should be managed by the province, up to a few months ago. And it was decentralized," Gillan said.

"Now communities and businesses are trying to sort out what's best for them. So that's what we're doing."

Facilities that will have a mask mandate include city hall, recreation facilities, galleries and the Civic Centre, home to the Junior A Battlefords North Stars and the Midget AAA North Stars.

Exceptions include:

  • Children under three years of age.

  • People who are medically exempt and individuals who cannot place or remove masks without assistance.

  • People actively participating in aquatic activities, physical exercise or playing sports.

  • People sitting while consuming food or beverages.

  • People attending private functions held in city facilities, where staff are not providing services (for example weddings).

"We need to protect our health system," Gillan said.

He said masking is an effective tool against COVID-19.

"Of course, the real important tool is vaccines. But as you know, in the province of Saskatchewan, compared to other provinces, we have a lower rate of vaccination percentage here," he said.

"We used to be a leader. Now we're a laggard."

The northwest zone, which includes North Battleford, had 580 known active cases on Tuesday.

Masks will again be mandatory when visiting the Allen Sapp Gallery in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. (Don Somers/CBC)

Gillan said local officials don't have the authority to mandate masks at theatres or bars or gyms, so this is the only thing the city can do.

City facilities leased to third parties, such as the North Battleford Library and the North Battleford Golf and Country Club, are not included in the mandate.

Council is asking all third-party organizations utilizing city facilities to consider implementing their own masking requirements.

Gillan said the city doesn't really have the means to enforce the rules, which is another reason they want the province to step in.

"It's a mandate, but at the same time it's going to be difficult to enforce. We know that, but it still didn't dissuade us."

Council also discussed whether to implement a vaccine requirement, but did not come to a decision.

Gillan said there are technological challenges when it comes to proof of vaccine and wants the province to take the lead. 

"We're hoping that in the very near future, the province steps in and does its job."

Cities like Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert have already put in mask mandates, and Moose Jaw is set to follow suit.

Gillan said everyone has to do their part, from masking indoors to washing hands and getting vaccinated.

"We're going to suffer a fourth wave like we're in and, God forbid, maybe a fifth or more. So we're just trying to do our small bit and set the example."

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