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Behind the face covering bylaw

In the six months that Albertans have been ordered
to cover up, just 204 tickets have been issued

(Chris Ranta)

By Peter Williams

IT HAS BEEN six months since city council enacted the Temporary Face Covering bylaw, which mandates masks or face coverings in all indoor public spaces and vehicles.

Since the bylaw was enacted Aug. 1, more than 5,000 verbal warnings and 204 tickets have been issued. When asked about the disparity between the two numbers, Chrystal Coleman, the city’s head of public safety compliance, said education, compassion and persuasion are the tactics first used by officers when interacting with the public.

“If these tactics do not gain compliance, enforcement and fines are considered.”

‘If these tactics do not gain compliance, enforcement
and fines are considered’

Over the course of first four months under the new bylaw, just 12 tickets were handed out. During a Nov. 27 press conference, Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin said Edmonton would be stricter on issuing fines.

“Everybody has to do their part to limit this spread. And if they’re not, you will see our folks enforcing that.”

The city made good on the promise, issuing 142 tickets in December, and, three weeks into January, 105. The fine for not wearing a mask under the bylaw is $100.

Peace officers (CSPOs) enforce orders related to the Alberta Health Services restrictions, while bylaw enforcement is done by both peace officers and police. The city patrols all public spaces, concentrating efforts on gatherings and worship centres.

‘Everyone has to do
their part to limit the spread’

“We have redirected some CSPOs from their regular enforcement duties to focus specifically on COVID-19 restrictions and face-covering enforcement,” Coleman said.

The regular responsibilities of peace officers include investigating noise complaints and removing road obstructions.

Coleman said that enforcement has fluctuated during different phases of the pandemic. Verbal-warning data shows peaks around significant events such as return to school, Halloween and Christmas.

Display boards downtown provide updates on the pandemic.  (Chris Ranta)

With the face-covering compliance rate sitting at 98 per cent, Coleman says, “the vast majority of Edmontonians and businesses are following public health orders and doing their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The compliance rate still lags slightly behind in public transit – most notably the LRT, which sits at 91 per cent.

(City of Edmonton)

The number of transit riders has gone down, as many people are working at home, but thousands of Edmontonians still rely on the service. Despite having a lower compliance rate than such areas as public spaces (99 per cent) and vehicles for hire (100 per cent), the number of active patrols for transit is proportionally smaller.

The bylaw was extended in November, and will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2021, although city council can vote to repeal it at any time.

To file a complaint or concern relating to face-coverings or physical distance, you can visit the City of Edmonton website, or the Alberta Health Services complaint form.

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