Niagara-on-the-Lake town council will hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss making wearing masks mandatory.
The decision to hold the 2 p.m. special session was unanimously approved during Monday's committee of the whole meeting.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero, who put the motion forward, expressed her disappointement in regional council not making a decision on the mask issue after a 4.5-hour meeting last week ended with a deferral.
“I would have preferred, in all honesty, to have the region deal with this last week,” Disero said.
“I was quite disappointed when regional council chose not to deal with it on Wednesday. I would have actually preferred a yes or a no.”
She said she’s been hearing from residents and business operators who are concerned about people not wearing masks while visiting stores. Businesses, she said, want to know they have the support of local government before mandating masks be worn.
She said making masks mandatory would help businesses feel confident in having patrons wear one, while helping to ensure Niagara-on-the-Lake can move to Phase 3 of reopening with the rest of the province.
“This is probably one of the major ways we can assist businesses in Niagara-on-the-Lake to move to Phase 3 — to make sure that we can control, as best as we can, the potential for spread.”
Without a bylaw, it allows people to potentially cause harm to others, Disero said.
“If this was something where people decided that they're not going to protect themselves, and the masks are only being worn to protect themselves, maybe things would be different, maybe we would think differently,” she said. “But if we don't put in a bylaw this allows people to affect others.”
Disero said the mask bylaw should include various types of face coverings, including surgical masks, face shields, bandanas, scarves and even plexiglas for store workers.
“It would also mean that those cashiers that currently have a plexiglass in front of them would also be able to use that as face covering, because their face is covered by this plexiglas.”
Coun. Wendy Cheropita said she, too, was surprised the region didn’t make a decision Wednesday and asked if there were any cases made at the region meeting as to why masks shouldn’t be worn.
Disero pointed out there was a lot of back and forth during the regional meeting and recommended Cheropita read the reports sent to council.
Coun. Clare Cameron asked if there was already a draft bylaw for the masks. Disero said she hadn’t instructed staff to make one yet, but that staff has been looking at what other municipalities have approved.
Cameron said she would be for participating in the special meeting if there were already a draft bylaw.
“I think it’s very important for a draft bylaw to view, not only for council but for the public to see in a timely manner before the meeting,” Cameron said.
Disero had suggested the meeting be set for Wednesday, however Coun. Gary Burroughs questioned if that would be enough time for staff to draft the bylaw, while giving the public the legally required 24 hours notice for the meeting.
He suggested the meeting be scheduled for Thursday instead, to allow staff a bit more time to prepare the bylaw.