Coronavirus: Niagara Region extends mandatory mask bylaw

A photo of Niagara's 'welcome everyone' sign out front of the region's council offices on Sir Isaac Brock Way in Thorold, Ontario. Don Mitchell / Global News

Niagara Region’s mandatory mask bylaw amid the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for another six months after the council voted in favour of extending the measure until April 1, 2021.

A final vote of 25 to 5 in favour of on Thursday night extends the bylaw, which went into effect on July 31 and was set to expire on Oct. 1.

The original order requires Niagara residents to wear masks in indoor public spaces, businesses and public transit with exceptions for medical conditions and for children under 5.

The legislation does not apply to outdoor locations.

Seven delegations spoke for close to an hour at Thursday’s council meeting, including a Lincoln resident who presented a ten-minute slide presentation asking for an end to the bylaw alleging it creates confusion and discrimination among healthy individuals.

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Following the presentations, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati questioned the need to continue listening to delegations on the issue going forward.

“Do we have to have these delegations every time we revisit this?” said Diodati to the region’s clerk Ann-Marie Norio.

Norio responded by saying, according to law, “anyone can come in” and be a delegate to something that’s on the agenda.

“If they have presented before that, they need to provide new information. But beyond that, we would not be able to stop a delegation,” said Norio.

Diodati also said he still doesn’t like masks but understands they are “one more layer of defence” against the virus but did question the length of the proposed extension through to April.

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“That seems somewhat excessive,” Diodati said in a pitch to potentially end the bylaw in January.

Acting CAO Ron Tripp told councillors that April 1 is essentially a few weeks after winter and the flu season, and suggested it was a “good time” to revisit the issue.

Norio informed councillors during the question period that the bylaw could be repealed any time by the region without the need for a two-thirds majority.

“Council has the authority to extend or repeal the bylaw just by resolution,” said Norio.

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