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Face Covering Bylaw on hold in RMWB as COVID-19 cases slow across Alberta

PHOTO. RMWB Council meets to debate the Face Covering Bylaw, which included several amendments, on Sept. 15, 2020.

RMWB Council met for a second day to debate the Face Covering bylaw on Sept. 15.

Following its second reading, Councillor Sheila Lalonde said she opposed a vote to immediately review the motion for third reading.

She said the region should continue following guidance from Alberta and Canada’s chief medical health officers.

“I think we should leave the mandating of health issues to the people who are the subject matter experts. If Dr Hinshaw and Dr Tam all say yes, masks are mandated, [then] I vote in a heartbeat for it.”

As of publication, Alberta did not mandate the wearing of masks in public spaces.

According to council procedure, the motion will next come before Mayor and Councillors on Oct. 13.

In the last 24 hours, Alberta said there are seven new cases and eight recoveries of COVID-19 in Fort McMurray.

Fort McMurray has 50 active cases, one death, and 151 recovered cases of the infection.

Outside the urban service area, there are four active cases and 59 resolved cases.

RELATED: Alberta reports 14 new cases, 17 recoveries of COVID-19 in weekend report

In the same timespan, Alberta has 124 new cases and no deaths linked to COVID-19.

Across the province, there are 1491 active cases, 254 deaths, and 14212 recoveries.

Health officials conducted 12,985 tests with the infection rate of just over 0.95 per cent.

Mandatory masking bylaw

Mayor and Councillor met for a second day to debate the draft of the Face Covering Bylaw.

This follows the Sept. 14 meeting, where delegates and residents issued hundreds of statements for and against the motion.

RELATED: Wood Buffalo divided on mandatory masking issue

To date, the administration spent $1.2-million on COVID-19 related measures including townhalls, education, and advertising.

CAO Jamie Doyle said while the RMWB recommends masking, the bylaw would not be the “silver bullet”.

He added different strategies combined to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The prohibitions listed under Sections 5-7 in the first draft of the Bylaw are the following:

  • A person must wear a Face Covering while in a Public Place or a Public Vehicle.
  • No person shall harass or intimidate a person who is not wearing a Face Covering as a result of any provision in Section 8 [Exceptions].
  • No person shall hinder or impede any officer in the performance of any duty authorized by this Bylaw, performance of their powers and duties under this Bylaw.


Mayor and Councillors asked several questions about education, enforcement, exceptions, and a basic threshold for cases before implementing a mask bylaw.

Councillor Verna Murphy introduced an amendment covering exception on age, which the administration initially suggested at two years of age.

RMWB Council voted unanimously for the amendment.

Councillor Jane Stroud also put forward a motion that Council reviews the Bylaw no later than Jan. 31, 2021.

Mayor and Councillors approved that motion by a unanimous vote.

Another motion from Councillor Sheila Lalonde suggested an amendment calling for penalties to people who harass or intimidate people unable to wear masks.

That motion passed 9-1, with questions from Murphy about what qualifies as harassment or intimidation.

She introduced another motion removing the so-called jail or summary conviction provision in point (b) under Section 12.

“A person who is guilty of an offence under this Bylaw is liable to: (a) A fine in the amount as prescribed in Schedule “B”; or (b) Upon summary conviction, a fine not exceeding $10,000 or a period of imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.”

RMWB Council approved that amendment unanimously.

Mayor Don Scott made a motion adding an exception for the temporary removal of masks.

Councillor Phil Meagher questioned if that exemption is too loose, so Councillor Balsom brought forward a friendly amendment.

The language of the motion would change to exempt people “while attending or leading a religious or worship activity.”

RMWB Council then voted unanimously in favour of the amendment.

Mayor Scott also suggested in the motion make education the priority beginning with a warning before considering any possible fines.

That motion carried unanimously.

Despite the inclusion of several amendments, RMWB Council voted 6-4 in the second reading.

The third reading of the amended motion, which is closed to delegates, will return before RMWB Council on Oct. 13, 2020.