Metro Vancouver Transit Police are urging the public not to take it upon themselves to enforce TransLink’s mandatory mask policy.
It comes after another video surfaced on social media of a transit confrontation over masking up, this time on SkyTrain.
In the video, two men can be seen standing toe to toe, screaming profanities at one another. After the two separate, one of the men can be heard yelling COVID-19 conspiracy theories to other passengers on the train.
“It appears an argument between two men over either wearing or not wearing a mask,” said transit police Sgt. Clint Hampton.
“It was a pretty aggressive verbal argument, and fortunately, at least from what we’ve seen, there wasn’t any kind of physical assault … but it could have turned into something so much more.”
It was not immediately clear where and when the video was shot.
It’s not the first time tempers have boiled over about TransLink’s mandatory mask policy.
In September, two men came to blows over the issue on a bus in Surrey.
Another video surfaced this month showing a woman, who was not wearing a mask, spit in a masked passenger’s face before being shoved off the bus. Police have yet to confirm whether a dispute over masks was at the heart of that incident.
UBC associate professor of psychology Azim Shariff told Global News that the ongoing stress of the pandemic may have people more “on edge” than ever before.
He said research has shown women are more likely to don masks than men, and that both men and women who reject them tend to be more prone to projecting “toughness.”
“The same people who are going to be least willing to wear masks because they don’t want to appear weak or vulnerable are also going to be the most willing to kind of throw down in these types of situations,” he said.
While many private businesses and some services such as transit have made wearing a mask mandatory, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday she has no interest in mandating them more widely.
Masks remain just one tool to help curb the spread of the disease, and the majority of people have been willing to adopt them in at least some context, she said.
“There’s no evidence that I’ve seen that making it mandatory is going to change the mind of those very small number of people that have a mindset against wearing a mask,” Henry said.
“That’s not the approach we’re taking.”
Hampton said despite the social media prominence of videos of mask-related disputes on transit, such incidents are actually quite rare.
But he said they do underscore the importance leaving policing TransLink’s mask policy up to the police.
“We don’t want people to confront someone over not wearing a mask,” he said. “We don’t want people to put their safety at risk.”View link »