By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent’s council will be presented with the opportunity to discuss mandatory masks at its next meeting in August.
Recently, Tera Fox, a Chatham-Kent resident, launched a petition seeking to make masks mandatory. The petition has more than 1,500 supporters.
Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health, is standing firm with his stance on masks, despite the petition.
Fox is now turning to council, the only other authority that has the power to mandate masks be worn.
Last week Sarnia’s council passed a temporary bylaw requiring masks be worn in public spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic even though Lambton’s medical officer of health did not recommend they be mandated.
Fox’s petition is not part of the official council agenda, as residents can’t submit motions to council unless a councillor brings it forward on their behalf.
The petition and an accompanying letter was added to the communications package. If a councillor chooses, they can pull it out to discuss it at the meeting. A two-thirds vote would be needed to put a motion on the table without notice, and a majority vote would be needed to pass.
Mayor Darrin Canniff said he is all for discussion on the topic, but ultimately does not want council to influence public health decisions.
“Certainly if a councillor wants to bring it up, we will debate it,” Canniff said. “But at that point we will be politicizing health and safety,”
Canniff said he stands by Colby’s decision to make masks mandatory in certain areas such as transit, for restaurant staff and personal service.
“We don’t go tell the hospital how to run their business, and this is an extension of that.”
Canniff did say that he respects the concerns of residents and encourages anyone who feels uneasy without a mask to wear one in public.
“I don’t think necessarily that it’s politicizing the mask issue,” Fox said. “My words to council are that they should be going to that petition online to read and hear the well thought-out words and voices of those concerned.”
Colby has previously said on the mask issue that science shows it is somewhat effective in prevention, but not enough to warrant a mandatory order.
“I think it’s foolishness. I don’t see where one man should have that much power over the health of the municipality when every other area of Ontario is on board with mandatory masking,” Fox said. “The numbers are coming down except for our area. We should slow the spread not just for our community but for the province.”