Mayor moves to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces

Cloth mask
Stock image for illustrative purposes only. Photo by Anke Sundermeier from Pixabay.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he’ll be asking for city council’s support later this month for a citywide bylaw making it mandatory for individuals to wear a cloth mask in indoor public spaces.

Watson made the announcement Friday afternoon on Twitter and suggested the move to control the spread of COVID-19 would be supported by local businesses.

“We’ve heard from business owners that they are in favour of mandating the wearing of cloth masks in indoor public spaces,” Watson stated. “This by-law would ensure that all businesses are on a level playing field. The decrease in transmission will benefit our local economy by allowing increased use of our excellent local establishments and greater customer comfort.”

The Ontario government has encouraged residents to wear a cloth mask when they’re unable to physically distance from others. However, Watson noted that it’s not always possible for individuals to know if they’ll be able to keep two metres from others before they enter an establishment.

Later on Friday afternoon, Sueling Ching – the president and CEO of the Ottawa Board of Trade – called the proposed mask requirement "the right and smart thing to do."

"In addition to reducing the risk of transmission, the consistent use of masks will also inspire the business, consumer and workforce confidence required to restart our economy," Ching said in a statement. 

Children under the age of two, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and those with other accommodation requirements would be exempt from the proposed bylaw. Watson says residents should “be prepared” to see people in public without masks and asks the community to “be respectful.”

OC Transpo already mandated that transit users wear face coverings while on buses or the O-Train.

Earlier this week, Toronto city council approved a temporary bylaw making masks mandatory in public indoor settings. Other Canadian jurisdictions have explored similar measures.

The motion will go before city council on July 15.