Don't use fake exemption cards to get out of wearing a mask, feds warn Canadians
TORONTO -- Canada's human rights watchdog says no Canadian should use what it describes as fake cards claiming to grant medical exemptions from wearing face masks in public.
Anti-lockdown groups that oppose new mandatory mask bylaws have started producing plastic “face mask medical exemption” cards to avoid wearing a mask in closed public spaces.
Although the cards are fraudulent, they may appear to some as though they have been approved by a public health agency. A Canadian flag appears in the right-hand corner with a message below that states "I have a medical condition that prevents me from wearing a mask or face covering."
The cards also feature a medical care seal and other symbols that are often associated with official medical documents. A phone number for the Canadian Human Rights Commission appears on the back of the cards, along with a claim that violations of disability rights can be reported to that number.
A spokesperson for the commission told CTVNews.ca that "these cards are fake" and in no way authorized by the organization.
"The Commission has not and would not produce posters or cards claiming that the cardholder has an exemption from wearing a face mask in closed public places," the spokesperson said Tuesday in an email.
"We also strongly recommend to Canadians that they do not share or use these fraudulent cards."
A collective of anti-lockdown groups that have been organizing in and around Toronto is behind the cards.Tony Anderson, a representative of a group called The Line Canada, says they were created as an educational tool to inform business owners and their staff about exemptions to the face mask bylaw.
"We received a lot of emails requesting us to educate people about the rules and regulations behind these bylaws," Anderson told CTVNews.ca via email. "There are elderly people and others who can't speak English, and are unable to articulate the exemption rule to the staff and security at the front of these stores. That’s why we made the cards."
Some groups have been selling the cards online by collecting funds in the form of donations. One group claimed to have mailed out more than 2,000 cards on Monday alone, although Anderson said that some of those mail-outs included stickers and other merchandise.
Wearing face masks in all indoor public spaces has been mandatory in Toronto since July 7. There are exemptions for children under the age of two and anyone with an underlying medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask, and nobody in the latter category is required to carry proof of their exemption.
A similar rule goes into force across Quebec on Saturday, also exempting those with medical reasons not to wear masks and not requiring them to prove it. Ontario has no province-wide mandate, but Toronto is far from the only municipality there to enact its own – Guelph and its surrounding area were first, and many others have since followed, including Ottawa. In all these places, medical exemptions are allowed without proof.
When asked what business owners should do when presented with one of these mask exemption cards, Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto's associate medical officer of health, told CTVNews.ca in an email that "we encourage businesses to be respectful of people who are unable to wear [a mask] due to health, age or other reason. We also recommend that they offer alternative services or offer off-peak hour service."
With files from CTVNews.ca's Ryan Flanagan