Anti-maskers take a stand on Calgary’s face-covering bylaw at Chinook Centre

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WATCH: People opposed to Calgary’s mask bylaw strode mask-free through Chinook Centre on Saturday in defiance of the rules. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports on what action was taken – Oct 17, 2020

Wearing masks inside stores has been a fact of life in Calgary since Aug. 1, but a number of people who don’t like that rule went maskless at Chinook Centre on Saturday.

A group called Freedom Unity Alliance encouraged people on social media to head to the mall mask-free.

“Today’s action was just to support those that can’t wear masks,” said event co-organizer Kimberlee Callaway.

“I can’t wear a mask because of past traumas. There’s no protest. There’s no rally. We just want to show that this is our God-given right to breath air. We are not sick, and if we were sick, we would stay at home.”

Inside the mall, there was plenty of security but people taking part in the action said they weren’t given a hard time about not wearing a mask.

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Read more: Addressing anti-mask protests poses a challenge for leaders, experts say

“So far, so good,” said Tommy Colthorpe with Freedom Unity Alliance. He said employees and security in the mall said “absolutely nothing today” as he strode through the mall without a mask.

“It’s the individual’s choice. There [are] lots of exemptions and nobody has the right to ask any questions on why they are exempt,” Colthorpe said.

A statement from Cadillac Fairview said its security team was “in contact with local authorities to ensure a safe shopping environment.”

Some shoppers weren’t impressed with people flouting the rules.

“I think they should have to wear one because I have to wear one. I think like everybody says, ‘I don’t wear one for me; I wear one for you to be safe,'” said shopper Kim Lester.

Calgary’s Chinook Centre pictured on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

Other shoppers still aren’t sold on the idea of mandatory masks.

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“I saw about 10 people walking around without masks,” said Trevor Price, from Red Deer, who was shopping at Chinook Centre on Saturday. “My own opinion: I don’t like wearing a mask. I think it should be up to the individual.”

Read more: Calgary restaurant owner worries about reaction from anti-mask diners

Calgary’s face-covering bylaw says businesses aren’t expected to evict a customer or refuse service to people who are not following the rules.

Stacey Selley owns Bamboo Ballroom near 17 Avenue. While people have been good about wearing masks, Stelley said she feels for retail workers who have to deal with people who aren’t wearing masks.

“They are going to be in the position to have to tell people they can’t come in and having their current customers feel uncomfortable. That’s the other thing — I don’t want somebody who is following a bylaw for my personal health to feel uncomfortable while they are in my store or while they are shopping at a mall,” said Selley.

“I feel that all you can really do is just ask them to do it, and if they don’t, I personally am not going to physically escort someone out. That would mean getting even closer to someone who is not wearing a mask.”

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Stacey Selley, owner of Bamboo Ballroom, says she feels for retail workers who have to deal with people who refuse to wear masks. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

Calgary’s face-covering bylaw went into effect on Aug. 1 and requires people to wear masks in any part of an enclosed space that the public can access.

According to the city’s website, the focus of the bylaw is on education with enforcement as a last resort.

“The approach is largely around communication and education for the public to better understand that wearing face coverings is the right thing to do,” the city said.

“Shared enforcement responsibilities are between community peace officers, the Calgary Police Service, livery inspectors and Calgary Transit peace officers.”

CPS called Saturday’s action a “non-event” and said no tickets were handed out by officers.

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