Calgary woman who launched human rights complaint over masking speaks out: ‘This is not OK’

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WATCH: It's one of the first official complaints of its kind. Citing a medical condition, a Calgary woman has filed a human rights complaint against a local bar over her right to refuse mask wearing. Jill Croteau reports – Nov 19, 2020

A weekly indulgence for Jenn Thompson turned into a frustration when she was denied entry to a Calgary social club because she wasn’t able to wear a mask.

“I felt like I had to say something,” Thompson told Global News.

The single mom said she needs a self-care break every once in a while and going to a show at Broken City is something she enjoys.

“I only grocery shop once every two weeks and I homeschool my kids to ease the burden on the school system and to not risk exposures for our family. This was my one and only outing,” she said.

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A stern warning from Alberta’s top doctor – Nov 19, 2020

Following the October incident, Thompson filed a human rights complaint, citing discrimination.

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“I came in and paid my ticket price and the security guard stopped me and asked: ‘Do you have your mask?’ The lady who worked at the door said: ‘She’s exempt,'” Thompson recalled.

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She said she’s excused from the mask bylaw because of a medical condition. The city’s bylaw also notes that “proof is not required if someone has an exception.”

Read more: Can’t wear a mask? Why demands for medical proof have experts worried

“I have autism spectrum disorder and something called ‘long QT syndrome.’ That means the beats in my heart in between are not even, so with slight oxygen level changes that’s what causes a loss of consciousness,” Thompson said.

The owner of Broken City, Andrew Brassard, said it’s a community bar and that he is inclusive to people of all abilities. He admits it’s nearly impossible for staff to decipher who is exempt, adding that more than one person that same night came to the establishment claiming mask exemption.

“We don’t have the knowledge or tools or training our staff to distinguish between who is exempt and who isn’t,” Brassard said.

“We couldn’t judge who was telling us the truth and who was coming here to cause trouble.”

“If people say their rights are infringed, I have a right to run a business in the safest manner possible,” Brassard said. “I’m not sorry for keeping my staff and customers safe.”

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Thompson says she’s aware of the complexities that come with the controversial masking issue but says even her suggestions to alternatively accommodate another way of watching the show weren’t entertained.

“I understand they don’t want to get bombarded with customer complaints and maybe they don’t want to keep explaining to other customers saying: ‘She’s exempt.’ That’s not their job and I understand their precarious position, but I don’t see any undue hardship livestreaming the event,” Thompson said.

“This is not OK… I have a protected status and this is discrimination.”

Brassard told Global News he didn’t receive and wasn’t aware of a request to livestream the event.

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COVID-19: Human rights complaint filed against Calgary bar after it denied entry to person refusing to wear mask – Nov 16, 2020

Cam Stewart, a spokesperson for the Alberta Human Rights Commission, said he couldn’t comment on ongoing complaints. but noted there’s been an uptick in filings amid the pandemic.

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“Since March, we have seen an increase in inquires and complaints to the Commission about masks-wearing related to COVID-19. We do not have the numbers at this time,” Stewart said.