Manitoba businesses trying to enforce mask-wearing amid new COVID-19 restrictions

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Despite several reminders, it appears some people in our province continue to refuse to wear a mask. Some have become rude, while others are reportedly turning to violence. Joe Scarpelli reports.

Since the province’s new Code Orange restrictions came into effect Monday, requiring the wearing of masks in public, a number of Manitoba businesses have dealt with frustrated customers.

At a Walmart in Selkirk, an assault that supposedly began with a dispute involving a mask led to charges against a 52-year-old man.

Walmart customer Bob Lee told 680 CJOB he confronted the man about not wearing a mandatory face covering, at which point he was told in vulgar terms to get lost.

“I challenged him that he should be wearing a mask, and he turned around and took about two steps toward me and said if I came within six feet of him, he was going to f—ing kill me,” said Lee.

“He shoved me back as hard as he could. I’d seen it coming and I braced myself, so there was no harm done.”

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Lee said the man was also approached by staff and told to put on a mask, which he refused to do.

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“One of the Walmart managers approached him and indicated to him he should be wearing a mask and he said, ‘I don’t have to,’ so I thought at that point it was appropriate to contact the RCMP about having assault charges laid — which they did after viewing the videotape.”

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RCMP confirmed to 680 CJOB that a man from the RM of St. Clements was arrested and charged with assault and uttering threats.

He’ll be appearing in a Selkirk court in December to face the charges.

Chris Hiebert of the Quality Beer Store in Winnipeg has also seen pushback against the mask-wearing policy, tweeting Monday that staff had taken verbal abuse from customers who didn’t like it.

“So far today, we’ve been yelled at, called names and had to refuse service to multiple people for refusal to wear masks.

“Wear a mask when entering our store and returning empties or we will refuse to serve you. Period.”

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Hiebert, the store’s manager, said it’s a pretty simple situation: buy your beer somewhere else if you refuse to wear a mask.

“A lot of the masks were actually being worn on their neck, and the biggest excuse was, it fogged their glasses,” he said.

“If my safety is not worth your glasses getting fogged, then I think you should shop somewhere else.”

Hiebert said a trip to the beer store is typically a very short visit, making the already minor inconvenience of wearing a mask even less of a hassle.

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For the most part, though, his customers are happy to comply with the restrictions — even some who were initially opposed.

“Some started getting a little confrontational with us and then we said, ‘It would be better if you just left the store,'” he said.

“And some did, but others right away changed their tune.”