A civil liberties advocacy group in Ontario says recommendations for people to wear masks during the pandemic violates human rights, but the local medical officer of health says Wellington-Dufferin -uelph is making a shared commitment to battling COVID-19.
The Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) is requesting that the World Health Organization retract its recommendation to decision makers advising the use of face masks within the general population.
In a letter to the WHO sent June 21, OCLA argues the recommendation is harmful to public health, and harmful to the very fabric of society.
The recommendation is used by governments as a ready-made justification to impose mask use in the general population,” said OCLA in the letter. “The resulting legislative dictates and policies of coercion broadly violate civil, political and human rights.”
OCLA argues there is no evidence to support the use of a mask is effective in fighting against COVID-19.
“If masks were even moderately effective at reducing the risk of infection, then a benefit would have been statistically detected in one or more of the many reliable trials that have already been made,” said OCLA in the letter.
As of June 12, a Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health order states that people in commercial establishments who are able to wear a mask must do so.
That order is consistent with Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health for WDGPH, in an email sent to GuelphToday on Wednesday.
“It was issued after consultation with legal experts and was, in fact, designed to balance protecting civil liberties, reopening our local economy and addressing the current global pandemic,” said Mercer.
After more than a week with the order in effect, Mercer said she is pleased to see the high rate of adoption by citizens and businesses in our region, which is based on anecdotal and observation rather than any data.
“While we have seen some issues in the early days commercial mask requirements, it is clear that our region is making a shared commitment to battling COVID-19,” she said.
Most other regions in Ontario do not currently have an order for wearing masks in public, but the Ontario government currently recommends their use on public transit and when physical distancing is not possible.
Wearing a mask will not protect you from getting COVID-19, says the Ontario government on its information page about the their proper use. Instead, it says the best way to protect yourself is to maintain physical distancing, wash hands regularly and to practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette.
Children under the age of two, people with difficulty breathing and anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance should not wear a face mask, says the Ontario government on its information page.