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Mandate or educate? Debating mandatory masks and enforcement

CALGARY (CityNews) — Many people are considering whether or not to mask up when they head out, as Canadian cities hammer down on mandatory face-covering laws.

But should governments mandate masks, or look towards educating the public?

Enforcement of the rules is one major consideration in the debate, as well as individual freedom of choice.

Cara Zwibel is a lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. She said the issue is that the rule stigmatizes people who can’t wear masks.

“We have concerns that this is an overboard rule and there will be enforcement issues. Often we have front line workers who have precarious jobs, often with low wages, and we’re asking them to enforce this mandate that most people are complying with except for people who can’t or don’t want to.”

Colin Furness is an infection control epidemiologist and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

He said there’s evidence showing that wearing masks is effective in the fight against COVID-19.

“It’s not a ‘nice-to-have’. It’s something that actually could mean the difference between uncontrolled community spread or not. When you have something that affects collective health, that’s where it becomes a little more appealing.”

Furness said mandating masks has benefits.

“We can actually do a lot in terms of personal freedoms, and get the economy going and have a normal life if we made people wear masks.”

Calgary City Council is expected to make a decision on Tuesday whether masks will be mandatory on public transit.