B.C.'s Human Rights Commissioner urges Public Health Officer to maintain mask mandates
Many students across B.C. returned to school this week amid a pandemic that has not ended, but without the protection offered by mask mandates.
On March 16, 2022, B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner urged the Public Health Officer (PHO) to maintain the mask mandate to ensure protection for all. In her letter to the PHO, Kasari Govender wrote: “The hasty end to the provincial mask mandate will have profoundly unequal effects across society. Some of us are more vulnerable than others to the virus, and public health policy must consider these disproportionate impacts. Marginalized groups include immuno-compromised people, older people, Indigenous and racialized peoples, people with disabilities, and low-income communities.”
The Commissioner noted that by lifting the requirement to wear masks, many seniors and people with disabilities will feel they must isolate themselves from society or risk their health.
Indigenous peoples and racialized people are overrepresented in high-transmission work environments and are at greater risk because of higher incidences of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Children under the age of five are not yet eligible for vaccination but will be attending schools without masks.
“While many of us have the good fortune to simply move on with life, thousands of British Columbians will be left behind because of their age, disability, or other protected characteristic under B.C.’s Human Rights Code,” said Commissioner Govender.
The Commissioner’s letter follows up on two years of ongoing work providing a human rights perspective on COVID policy decisions, including directly to the Public Health Officer. The Commissioner’s letter is publicly available below.