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Coronavirus: ‘I’m trying my best,’ says B.C. senior after being refused service for not wearing mask

Click to play video: 'B.C. senior with severe lung disease says despite having medical note, he is often refused service for not covering up' B.C. senior with severe lung disease says despite having medical note, he is often refused service for not covering up
B.C. senior with severe lung disease says despite having medical note, he is often refused service for not covering up – Dec 17, 2020

A B.C. senior who has breathing problems says wearing a mask is nearly impossible.

David Madill of West Kelowna is 76 years old and has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“I can’t get enough air in, so anything that obstructs the airway causes me severe distress,” said Madill, who is exempt from having to cover his face.

“I’m not one of these people who goes around saying ‘I won’t wear a mask.’ I mean I’m not an anti-masker.”

Read more: Mask exemption: B.C. woman files complaint after autistic son denied entry at Indigo store

The Okanagan resident said he tried wearing a mask while grocery shopping, but it caused him to pass out.

“I had to sit down. I was lightheaded,” he said. “I finally passed out and my wife took the mask away.”

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In B.C., masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces, but Madill has an exemption.

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He has a medical note from his doctor, stating “a mask … is not something that he can safely wear as it will cause him to suffer severe respiratory decompensation.”

The note goes on to say that “forcibly making him wear a mask would potentially cause him harm.”

“It’s unbearable. I mean I can’t breathe,” Madill said.

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But despite the note, which he carries around everywhere he goes, Madill said he still gets hassled, with many businesses refusing to serve him.

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“They won’t serve me,” he said.

Earlier in the week, he tried to get blood work done ahead of a CT scan that he needs. But even with his exemption, Madill said he was turned away.

“They refused to do the blood work because I could not wear a mask and I got turned away,” Madill said.

Read more: Kelowna RCMP investigating after mall staff member allegedly threatened by anti-mask demonstrator

Madill’s story is not uncommon. And for that reason, B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner launched a new poster awareness campaign on Thursday.

It clarifies mask exemptions, which includes:

  • Anyone under the age of 12
  • Anyone unable to wear a mask because of a health condition or mental impairment
  • Or anyone who is unable to put on or remove a mask without help from another person.

According to the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, if a person claims a mask exemption, businesses are to take them at their word. Proof should not be required.

Also, business owners cannot be fined for allowing people without masks to enter their place of business.

And businesses being told that if a person claims to have an exemption, they are to take their word for it. Proof should not be required.

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“As we adopt more extensive mask-wearing protocols, it is important to ensure that the implementation of the mask-wearing mandate does not violate people’s human rights, particularly the rights of people with disabilities,” said Human Rights commissioner Kasari Govender.

Madill said he’s just hoping the public is more understanding of people in his situation.

“I mean, please, have a little bit of respect for us,” he said. “I mean, we’re trying our best.”

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