City of Edmonton considering a fine for mask exemption card misuse, termination of program after significant abuse

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Exemption cards were brought in by the city as a way to alleviate some concerns from residents who are exempt under the indoor public spaces mask bylaw, but were being challenged in public or denied service because they weren’t wearing a mask. The cards provided them a way to verify their exemption to businesses.

But distribution of the cards through an honour system proved troublesome as residents didn’t have to show proof of exemption and could take additional cards for family members.

The city’s COVID-19 task team chair David Aitken said misuse of the program became clear through direct conversations between residents obtaining the cards and recreation centre staff handing them out.

“Front-line workers who were actually giving out the cards, they were capturing some commentary from individuals coming in requesting the cards indicating that it was really just a means to avoid wearing a mask,” Aitken said. “Posts on social media indicating reasons for getting the cards were not related to an exemption but really a personal desire not to wear a mask.”

Mask compliance remains high throughout the city, sitting above 80 per cent in all areas and 98 per cent in private businesses.

The city will consult with local business associations and try to find an alternative card distribution process within the next week, Laughlin said. This may include an online approach that requires some kind of proof of exemption. Council heard Thursday the city can’t require medical information due to personal privacy rights, but the province has that authority. Accessible parking placards, obtained through the province, require approval from a medical professional.

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