Sask. businesses say rules requiring face masks make some customers, staff feel safer

Saskatoon businesses who require their customers to wear masks have explained why they chose that approach as national discussion continues over whether face coverings should be mandatory in some places.

Reactions have been mixed, say 2 Saskatoon business owners, including some customers who refuse to wear masks

Masks are not mandatory in most situations in Saskatchewan, but people are encouraged to wear them when they are unable to practise phsycial distancing. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Some Saskatoon businesses that require their customers to wear masks say while there are mixed reactions to the rules, the coverings make some of their customers and employees feel safer.

As national discussion continues over whether face coverings should be mandatory in some places, more than 1,000 physicians have signed an open letter through the "Masks4Canada" campaign, calling for mandatory face coverings in some places. 

The letter, addressed to federal health officials including Chief Public Medical Health Officer Theresa Tam and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, argues that masks should be required in indoor spaces outside the home, such as schools and shops, crowds and on public transit. 

Some businesses in Saskatchewan, like Saskatoon's Village Green Thrift Store, already require their customers to wear masks as a preventative measure against COVID-19. 

Store manager Carol Scott said the majority of her customers have followed the rules without concerns, but a small number have refused to wear a mask. 

"Some people have said … 'I'll come back later' or 'I'm not shopping here,'" said Scott. 

"We've had a couple of people get really irate."

People who have refused to wear masks said they shouldn't have to because the provincial health authority has not made it mandatory in most cases, she said.

The province said Tuesday that some employees — including restaurant staff, workers at fitness facilities and workers at personal care services that cannot maintain two metres of distance — must wear a non-medical mask, but they remain optional for customers.

Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab has said people should wear masks in places where they are unable to practise physical distancing, echoing the advice of his federal counterpart. 

Nikki van Duyvendyk is the owner of Dutch Growers, a Saskatoon gardening, fashion and homeware business, which was able to start operating again in one of the first phases of the provincial reopening plan.

She said there have been mixed reactions to her store's policy requiring all customers to wear masks, including gratitude from customers who were happy to be able to leave their homes and visit a garden centre. 

"A lot of our customers felt very happy that we had those rules in place because they felt like they could come — especially a lot of people that were immunocompromised, the elderly, that weren't able to go anywhere at that time," said van Duyvendyk. 

No reduction in sales: owner

Some other customers who were not aware of the rule were shocked when they arrived, she said.

"Not knowing or not reading ahead of the rules that we had in place ... they were upset that they had to wear some sort of face covering before coming in."

She said the fact that the masks are not mandatory under provincial rules makes some people feel like they are not needed. 

Van Duyvendyk said Dutch Growers did not see any reduction in sales as a result of the mask-wearing policy. 

She said the policy has helped keep morale high among her employees during a difficult time. 

"I think everybody feels safe, and if you feel safe, you feel happier and it gives you hope," she said. 


Alicia Bridges is a former CBC Saskatoon reporter who is now working in Australia.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning


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