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Updated: December 17, 2020

The following media release contains information about British Columbia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that was current at the time of its publication. Provincial health orders and guidelines may have since changed, and B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner encourages individuals and organizations to take precautions based on the most current advice from public health officials and to seek legal advice if necessary. For up-to-date information on COVID-19 in B.C., please visit the BC Centre for Disease Control website. Our Office also regularly updates our pandemic-related material, including our FAQ and mask-wearing guidance.

Vancouver B.C. –  Today, B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner issued a simple poster to clarify mask-wearing exemptions permitted under law. The poster is designed to be placed alongside notices or signage about a business’s mask-wearing policies.

On Nov. 24, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued a mandatory mask order. BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner’s poster aims to reduce misunderstandings about the application of the order to people who are unable to wear masks. The poster encourages duty bearers such as business owners to take people at their word if they claim a mask exemption.

“As we adopt more extensive mask-wearing protocols, it is important to ensure that the implementation of the mask-wearing mandate does not violate people’s human rights, particularly the rights of people with disabilities,” said Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender.

“Our goal is to help keep British Columbians physically safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and secure in the knowledge we are monitoring and protecting their human rights.”

The poster clarifies that you do not have to wear a mask if:

People who are able to wear a mask, but who choose not to as a matter of preference are not exempt.

The poster advises business owners that:

BCOHRC’s COVID-19 guidance to date

The Office has been responding to human rights issues raised by the pandemic:

The mask exemption poster is now available for download from BCOHRC’s website: bchumanrights.ca/mask/poster

The Commissioner encourages media to share these COVID-19 mask-wearing guidance resources.


Media contact

Commissioner Kasari Govender is not available for interviews. For more information, please contact Elaine O’Connor, Acting Director, Communications, at Elaine.OConnor@bchumanrights.ca or 1-250-216-4534.

Media kit

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BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner exists to address the root causes of inequality, discrimination and injustice in B.C. by shifting laws, policies, practices and cultures. We do this work through education, research, advocacy, inquiry and monitoring. Learn more at: bchumanrights.ca

About the Commissioner

BC’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, started her five-year term on Sept. 3, 2019. Since then, our Office has been working swiftly to build a strong team, to listen deeply to the concerns of British Columbians, to issue policy guidance to protect vulnerable communities and to lay a human rights-based foundation for our work. As an Independent Officer of the Legislature, the Commissioner is uniquely positioned to ensure human rights in B.C. are protected, respected and advanced on a systemic level throughout our society.

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