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BC Transit supervisors should enforce mandatory masks, Kelowna union says

Click to play video: 'BC Transit mandating masks on Okanagan buses as of Aug. 24' BC Transit mandating masks on Okanagan buses as of Aug. 24
WATCH: BC Transit says in alignment with TransLink and other transportation agencies, it will be proceeding with mandatory use of face coverings on buses in BC Transit communities across the province as of Aug. 24. Jules Knox reports. – Aug 10, 2020

Kelowna’s transit union is welcoming BC Transit instituting a mandatory mask policy as of Aug. 24, but says the transit authority should provide passengers masks and enforce the policy.

BC Transit announced on Aug 6. that it will be proceeding with the mandatory use of face coverings on buses in BC Transit communities in alignment with TransLink.

“The implementation of a mandatory mask policy is in response to feedback from our customers. I am pleased to have the support of TransLink, Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Province of BC to implement this policy that will make transit more comfortable for our customers,” said Erinn Pinkerton, BC Transit president and CEO, in a press release.

Accommodations will be permitted for children under the age of 5 and those that cannot wear a face covering for health reasons.

Read more: BC Transit installing barriers to protect drivers from assault

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However, the Crown corporation says the policy will be implemented as an educational step without enforcement.

“We do have exclusion criteria and so if somebody does get on board a BC Transit vehicle without a face covering, we will make the assumption that they meet one of our exclusion criteria,” spokesperson Jonathon Dyck told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Masks will soon be mandatory on public transit' Masks will soon be mandatory on public transit
Masks will soon be mandatory on public transit – Aug 7, 2020

Al Peressini, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722, says he agrees bus drivers should not be responsible for enforcing the policy to avoid confrontation with passengers.

“There is no way our drivers will be enforcing it because that could lead to confrontation,” Peressini said.

“My fear is that other passengers may start confrontation if they are wearing a mask and people get on without wearing a mask. That might start a conflict, and we don’t want that.”

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He suggested that BC Transit enforce the mask policy instead.

“I’m hoping in the near future that they will enforce it down the line by either having transit supervisors or people from BC Transit at the main terminals in Kelowna reminding the passengers that masks are mandatory,” Peressini said.

Read more: Mandatory masks to be required on all Metro Vancouver public transit amid COVID-19

He also says the transit authority should provide masks to passengers before they board the bus. As of now, passengers will be required to provide their own face coverings.

“I believe they should be handing them out and supplying them,” he said.

Peressini would like to see visible signage informing the public about the new policy.

Click to play video: 'TransLink makes mask mandatory for transit passengers' TransLink makes mask mandatory for transit passengers
TransLink makes mask mandatory for transit passengers – Aug 6, 2020

“I’d like to see the sign say ‘no mask, no ride,’ but that could lead to conflict too, so hopefully they come up with some good signage all over the bus and the public is understanding and willing to do their part to help prevent the spread of this virus,” he said.

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As for bus drivers, Peressini says newly-installed plexiglass barriers separate bus operators from passengers, but wearing a mask is optional.

BC Transit transports 58 million passengers a year and operates 88 transit systems in 130 communities across B.C. outside of Greater Vancouver, according to its website.

— With files from Jules Knox

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