OVERVIEW: What Sarnia’s new mandatory face mask bylaw means for residents and businesses

George Mathewson

Sarnia’s mandatory face mask bylaw takes effect tomorrow. It requires a mask or face covering be worn within enclosed, publicly accessible spaces, such as businesses, churches and other institutions in the city.

The bylaw contains many exemptions, however, and businesses are not required to question anyone who isn’t wearing a mask.

Though the bylaw provides for fines of up to $1,000 per offence, the city said it’s taking an “education-first” approach to enforcement.

Those not required to wear a mask include:

* Children under five

* People with an underlying medical condition or disability that inhibits their ability to wear one.

* People unable to put on or remove a mask without assistance

* Employees in designated areas not publicly accessible or separated by a physical barrier

* People accommodated under the Ontario Human Rights Code

* People eating or drinking in an establishment, engaged in sports or fitness, or receiving a service involving the face

* People participating in a religious service with rituals that require an uncovered mouth.

The bylaw requires masks be worn in areas used as a place of business for the sale of goods or services. But business owners and staff are not expected to question people who aren’t wearing a mask in their establishment or engage in a confrontation, and customers are not required to provide proof of an exemption.

City Hall is asking residents to respect of the rights of those exempt from wearing a mask.

A mask can include medical or non-medical face coverings such as a scarf, bandana, or cloth that covers the nose, mouth or chin. Face shields are also acceptable.

Residents are responsible for supplying their own mask. Businesses can offer free masks or sell them, but aren’t required to.

The city says it’s taking an “education first” approach to enforcement. However, if non-compliance becomes “significant” business owners can call 519-332-0330.

Anyone convicted of contravening the bylaw faces a fine up to $1,000, plus costs, for each offence.

Sarnia launched a webpage today that contains additional details for residents and business operators. Visit: https://www.sarnia.ca/mask-bylaw/

Business operators can find downloadable signage and frequently asked questions at: https://www.sarnia.ca/business-owners-operators-faqs/

For information on how to properly wear a mask, visit: https://www.sarnia.ca/proper-use-of-mask-or-face-covering/.