Yellowknife business owners offer mixed views on potential renewed call for indoor masking

A sign stating masks are required inside Canadian Tire in Yellowknife on August 30, 2021. It's been a while since Yellowknifers saw signs like this around town.  (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)
A sign stating masks are required inside Canadian Tire in Yellowknife on August 30, 2021. It's been a while since Yellowknifers saw signs like this around town. (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)

To mask or not to mask?

It's a question being asked across the country as some doctors, scientists and hospital officials ask for mandates to be brought back in the south as provincial hospitals are overwhelmed with cases of the flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.

Last week Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam recommended Canadians start masking indoors again to help hospitals in the south cope with the surge of respiratory viruses.

"If it's added to the other layers of protection, including vaccination, then it might actually make a difference in terms of dampening the surge so that the hospitals can cope just a little bit better," Tam said in a news conference Thursday.

But Tam said it was up to provinces and territories, at this time, to chart their own courses.

There's been no recent statement from N.W.T. health officials on the matter, but masking recommendations have been in place since April 1 when the N.W.T.'s public health emergency was rescinded.

Mixed masking reaction from business owners 

But the idea of a return to indoor masking drew mixed reaction from some business owners in Yellowknife.

Edward But, the owner and manager of Coyote's Bistro on Franklin, said he would support mandatory masking after his business shut down to the public last week due to an intense flu that rocked the staff.

"The flu bug kicked the living bejesus out of me," But said to CBC.

"I would not want to wish it on my worst enemies … if [masking] could help lower the chances of getting the flu or COVID, I think every little thing helps, you know."

Meanwhile other business owners said they would not support a return to mandatory masking.

Curtis Mandeville/CBC
Curtis Mandeville/CBC

"We're not interested in that here," James McGaughey, owner of Ragged Ass Barbers, told CBC.

"With the masks and all the bullshit, we're done and our customers are super done with it."

Other businesses said they would support the masking recommendation but are unsure of how they would enforce a recommendation, if it was not a legally binding mandate.

Luthfun Nahar Mitu, the owner of Rebecca's Flowers in Yellowknife, said she has been having conversations with her staff about how to move forward.

"I try to talk about it with some people, and they really don't, especially men, really don't want to go back to masking but most of the girls are OK with it," Nahar Mitu said.

Despite questions about enforcement, Nahar Mitu supports masking to protect communities and children, and said she has already noticed an increase in people wearing masks in public places in the territory.