No mask? You could be fined as calls reporting B.C. mask violations are way up

No mask? You could be fined as calls reporting B.C. mask violations are way up
WatchWith masks mandatory indoors in B.C., there's been a big spike in calls reporting violators. Tess van Straaten looks at the new fines and enforcement measures.

A mask is mandatory in all indoor public spaces in B.C. and now, anyone who refuses to wear one could be facing a $230 fine.

“I think they should be fined twice as much,” one lady in Victoria told CHEK News. “I think it’s inexcusable to put front line workers, usually people who are making minimum wage, in a position of feeling unsafe and dealing with people who won’t wear masks.”

The mask enforcement measures are being enacted under the province’s state of emergency so by-law officers and police can better respond to cases of people not following the mask mandate.

“The fact that fines are in place really just gives us an alternative tool to use when we respond to these calls,” says Const. Markus Anastasiades of the Saanich Police Department.

And across the province, calls are way up since the mask measures were announced last week.

“We have seen close to a 40 per cent increase in calls to report someone who isn’t wearing a mask,” explains Jasmine Bradley of E-Comm 911, who handle emergency communications for British Columbia.

Those numbers are expected to increase even more now that fines are in place.

But along with the higher call volume is a troubling trend — more abuse is being directed at 911 and non-emergency call takers.

“What we’re starting to see is callers are taking this anger and frustration out on our people,” Bradley says. “It’s extremely troubling to hear our staff are having to regularly deal with callers venting.”

With tensions high, first responders are reminding people to stay calm — and be kind.

And to not jump to conclusions when they see someone not wearing a mask.

“I think it’s important for people to understand there are people exempt from wearing a mask, and there’s several reasons why, including several medical reasons, and we have to allow for that,” said Anastasiades.

The fines apply to anyone age 12 and over who isn’t exempt.

For non-emergency situations, you should call your local by-law office first and then the police non-emergency number unless someone is being threatened or in danger.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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