On Saturday, Quebec became the first province to make the wearing of face masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces. That is not sitting well with some people.
On Sunday afternoon, about 100 people gathered for an anti-mask protest in downtown Montréal outside Premier François Legault’s office.
“I’m here to take back our freedom and protest against the absolute tyranny that is being imposed on us by our government with no scientific evidence,” said Vanessa Glavac, one of the protesters.
Glavac is questioning the decision to make masks mandatory months into the pandemic.
“If they were such an important health measure, then they should have been implemented immediately not six months into the pandemic not when deaths are lowering,” Glavac told Global News.
The province recorded 166 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total case number to 57,466, and one new death, making a total of 5,655 deaths.
Many of the protesters say that they are tired of getting conflicting information from different sources.
“We research them and we are not finding out all the truth, which is frustrating for many people. That is why this is going on,” protester Antonio Pietroniro said.
“I follow science, I look online every day and follow the scientific strategies,” said fellow protester Sharon Chanti.
Legault announced the measure on Monday, saying that wearing a mask in public will help keep people safe during the ongoing health crisis, but there is an exemption for those who cannot don one for medical reasons.
“I ask all Quebecers to wear a mask in shops and public transportation,” he said. “The COVID-19 virus is really dangerous and it’s easy to catch if you’re close to another person.”
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said there’s substantial evidence that using face masks will help stop the spread of droplets in the air, and could help slow the spread of the virus.
“The emerging evidence for face masks is that they are very effective at doing one thing — restraining your own droplets,” Furness said in an interview with Global Calgary.
Furness said that many people’s reservations on the subject stem from “conspiracy theories” and inaccurate information.
Recent polling conducted by Ipsos suggests most Canadians don’t have an issue with wearing masks, however. Nearly 80 per cent of those surveyed across the country said they would support a mandatory mask measure in their municipality.
Some of the protesters said they are complying with the rules because they have to but they don’t want to be told what to do.
“I think why we are here now is because we want those things to stop. We want to live free without wearing that mask,” said David Duclos.
“We should be allowed to choose what we do with our bodies. Nobody has the right to choose over us,” Pietroniro told Global News.
On Saturday afternoon, a man at a Montreal Tim Hortons was arrested after refusing to wear a mask.
“I feel very sad and I think it’s not the last incident we are going to see more and more,” said Chanti.
The police were called to the restaurant after the man refused to put on a mask or leave the store.
“In cases where people don’t want to comply we are not asking merchants to physically get into a scuffle with someone who won’t comply. So, in that case, they call for the police to have the person expelled,” André Durocher, Montreal police spokesperson, said.
Protesters say they will continue “fighting for their freedom” until the new ruling is overturned. Montreal police say they will continue enforcing the rules, as it is part of their job.
While no other province has made wearing masks in indoor public spaces mandatory, dozens of municipalities across the country have done so.
–With files from The Canadian Press, Demi Knight and Kalina Laframboise, Global News