(Ashley Wadhwani photo)

(Ashley Wadhwani photo)

South Surrey parents appeal for awareness, respect regarding mask use

‘We all need to do our part here’

A pair of South Surrey parents are speaking out about concerns on both sides of the provincial health order mandating the use of masks.

READ MORE: Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

READ MORE: Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

For one mother – whose teenage daughter has been living with health complications since being diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year – the aim is to raise awareness around the use of face shields, and the fact that they are not an accepted substitute for masks, particularly in workplaces dealing with food.

For another – the father of a young girl who was refused entry for an eye appointment because she wasn’t wearing a mask, due to a health condition which qualifies her for an exemption – the issue is about respect for people with disabilities.

“It’s not about shaming businesses at all,” Monre Bester emphasized to Peace Arch News Thursday (Dec. 3). “It’s about common decency and respecting people with disabilities.

“It’s awareness as well for other businesses to realize that look, there are people that have disabilities that might seem OK,” Bester continued.

Bester said his daughter is a Grade 7 student who has Aspergers, a disorder that is considered high-functioning on the autism spectrum, and that an eye exam was requested by her neurologist.

He said the 12-year-old can’t wear a mask as they make her lightheaded to the point where she has even thrown up, and that his ex-wife had contacted the eye clinic twice ahead of their daughter’s appointment to ensure they were aware of her medical file and double-check that they knew she was unable to wear a mask. On both occasions, she was assured it wouldn’t be a problem, Bester said.

However, when the mother and daughter arrived at the clinic Wednesday, it was a different reality, Bester said.

“They were refused entry at the door, and got into a heated conversation, and ended up with (the eye clinic staff) saying, ‘Look, under no circumstances are we going to allow your kid in to do her eye exam, because of COVID and if she’s not going to wear a mask.’”

Bester described the situation as “crazy, off-the-charts.”

“I just feel the way she’s been treated is just completely, utterly discrimination against a child.”

Bester said while Fraser Health officials assured him that such a refusal is against the rules, they also said ensuring that businesses comply is outside their jurisdiction.

A Fraser Health spokesperson directed PAN to contact the solicitor general’s office, and officials with Emergency Management BC responded Monday (Dec. 7).

“Everyone should keep in mind that there are valid reasons for some people not to wear masks,” an emailed reply states.

“Businesses are not the enforcers of this order,” it continues.

“They may set their own policies for the use of face coverings but should be mindful that some people have legitimate reasons for not being able to wear a mask and may be exempt from the order.”

Exempt individuals, the statement notes, include “persons who are unable to wear face coverings due to physical, mental or cognitive disabilities or medical conditions.”

Bester said his daughter’s experience is proof that more awareness is needed. He said he understands and has no issue with people asking for an explanation for his daughter’s lack of mask, but described what transpired this week as heavy-handed and “extremely unprofessional.”

“Just because they’re high-functioning doesn’t mean they don’t have disabilities,” Bester said.

In the case of the mother whose teenage daughter had COVID-19 earlier this year, she said her frustration is with people who believe face shields meet the standard of protection that is mandated under the mask order.

The mom – who asked to remain anonymous to protect her daughter’s identity – said she recently reported a White Rock business to the city’s bylaw department after employees and even managers were working with only face shields on. The coverings, she noted, pointing to wording in the provincial health order, are “not a substitute for a mask as it has an opening below the mouth.”

“The mask mandate specifically says face shields don’t qualify… because they don’t protect from aerosol transmission,” however, both store staff and bylaw officers told her that everything was fine, she said.

“I’m pretty frustrated that those systems are falling down in this way, because it’s not a grey area anymore. It’s not up for interpretation.”

City of White Rock communications manager Donna Kell confirmed that the city investigated one report concerning a grocery store, and that bylaw officers who visited noted all customers were in compliance. Regarding safety protocol for employees in workplaces, “the use of masks or allowances for other forms of employee protection, including face shields, is overseen by WorkSafeBC,” Kell said.

WorkSafeBC’s website regarding mask use links to the provincial health order.

The mom said a call to Fraser Health regarding her concern resolved the situation, however, she has since noted employees of some other area businesses that deal with food also using face shields.

Seeing the realities of long-term COVID-19 impacts that her previously-healthy daughter is living with – which have included bouts of unexplained vomiting and, recently, a seizure – the mom said it is unacceptable for those who are out and about in the community, and for workplaces in particular, to not comply with the health order, regardless of any personal feelings they may have around the need for or effectiveness of masks.

“It’s beyond insensitive for people to be saying, ‘Well, I don’t want to wear a mask,’” she said. “It’s not appropriate. We need to be a community of people here. Just because (COVID-19) hasn’t happened to them, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

“As an employer, they don’t have to agree with me. I’m not Dr. Bonnie Henry,” the woman said. “But now that she’s made the mandate – it’s not a recommendation, it’s an actual mandate – the employers’ job is to enforce it.

“As a community, in terms of our social contract, we all need to do our part here.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSurreyWhite Rock

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sports broadcaster and 30-year high school football coach Farhan Lalji. (Image via farhanlalji.com)
Farhan Lalji chats about the new B.C. high school sports governance proposal

Lalji, a 30-year high school football coach, thinks the new proposal will be bad for student athletes

Delta character - and former White Rock resident - Pansy May Stuttard inspects a loaded revolver in the cover photo for Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen’s fascinating biography, Lord don’t want me Devil won’t take me. Contributed photo
West Coast’s ‘Pistol-packin’ Pansy’ lives on in colourful biography

Infamous Delta character ended her days in White Rock and South Surrey

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Surrey councillor trying to get policing referendum on the table, again

‘I’m sending it back for clarification,’ mayor decides

(Photo: MOSAIC/Facebook)
Organization receives $10K from B.C. government to tackle racism in Surrey, White Rock

Funding to go toward forum for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

Most Read