Concern grows as anti-maskers target B.C. workers enforcing COVID-19 rules

WATCH: The distressing phenomenon of anti-mask activists verbally and even physically attacking staff at restaurants and stores has become a not-uncommon sight during the pandemic. So what rights do business operators have to refuse service or remove those people? Sarah MacDonald reports.

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, public health restrictions have brought out the worst in some of us.

On Monday, a customer at a Canadian Tire in Burnaby allegedly became belligerent after being asked to wear a mask. The customer is now at the centre of an assault investigation.

“We all have rights, including the store,” Burnaby Cpl. Mike Kalanj said. “So the store has the right to ask you to leave.”

A similar incident took place earlier this month at Vancouver’s Kerrisdale Camera when an unidentified man confronted staff when asked to put on a mask, and captured it on video.

Read more:
Anti-masker berates staff at Vancouver camera store

A confrontation at a De Dutch Pannekoek House saw a group of people, who claimed to have medical exemptions, berate young workers.

“These people know what they’re doing is wrong,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said.

“They need to wear a mask in a public place. No employee should be subject to any form of abuse. These people are being deliberate. They’re ignorant and their behaviour needs to stop.”

Police and legal experts remind businesses that they have the right to deny service to anyone who is putting staff or other customers at risk.

Workers who find themselves in a confrontation over masks can contact police, Farnworth added.

Read more:
B.C. man in video of Starbucks confrontation fined twice for refusing to wear mask

Lawyer Sarah Leamon notes that the law almost always sides with the citizens who abide by the rules.

“At this point the constitutional validity of this law has yet to be tested, so anybody pursuing this avenue is going down a precarious path,” she said.


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