There’s an end in sight to mandatory masking in Chatham-Kent.
Council voted to tie their masking bylaw end date to the provincial government’s. This means – if all goes to plan – by approximately March 2022 the cloth coverings will no longer be required.
But councillors, and Chatham’s top doctor, made clear this “housekeeping” motion doesn’t mean the mask mandate is over today.
“I’m just bringing this in so when the provincial government does remove the mandates for masks we’re able to not have to wait to remove it ourselves,” says Councillor Mark Authier, who introduced the motion to end the municipal bylaw at the same time restrictions are lifted in Ontario.
When the masking bylaw was passed August 2020 there were still no provincial rules on the issue.
“I do not want people to think that because of this ending… that they think they can go through Chatham-Kent without a mask,” says Authier. “Because obviously the provincial mandate takes precedence over ours.”
This cleared up some questions that councillors and residents had in the leadup to the vote.
“The way that the notice of motion was originally written definitely caused some confusion in the community,” says Councillor Aaron Hall. “Some folks thought we were voting tonight so that people don’t have to wear masks anymore in places that are required. But obviously that’s not the case.”
“I think even this on our agenda has caused some sort of confusion,” says Councillor Carmen McGregor. “I’ve been reached out to and asked the implications of this motion.”
Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby says he’s fine with the motion as long as the public is clear masks are still the law.
“The Chatham-Kent bylaw is certainly redundant with regard to the provincial masking rules and regulations that are enforced by legislation now. So I’m not sure that there is any significant effect of removing this from a practical point of view, as long as the public does not misunderstand what the intention of removing it is.”
“Certainly I’m able to enforce a rule for masking should that become necessary for any reason in Chatham-Kent through the powers I have as the Medical Officer of Health,” Colby added.
Councillor Michael Bondy says though it may be redundant it will resolve one of the original questions about the bylaw.
“When the bylaw was passed there was some concern mentioned by some councillors and public that there was no expiry to the bylaw. So I think this fills that gap that we had,” he says.
The motion then passed 13-5.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent