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Babies not exempt from mask bylaw at some regional businesses

'If this is a policy that you can not respect, then we are not the place for you to come this winter,' says Chicopee GM about their mask policy
Lisa Fotios/Pexels

A Guelph mother says she was following public health advice when she was asked to leave the premises of a nearby ski hill for not putting a mask on her 13-month-old son.

Rebecca Adam said she was picking up a ski badge on Sunday at Chicopee in Kitchener for her three-and-a-half year old daughter’s upcoming lessons. 

“At the entrance I got turned down because my baby didn’t have on a mask,” said Adam. “I told her under two, Ontario law is no masks. She said it didn’t matter.”

At no time were Adam and her son indoors. She said people were only allowed to line up outside and that everyone was physically distanced.

Adam said she asked to speak to a manager, who reiterated there was no exceptions to the rule, not even for babies. She ended up walking away without getting the pass. 

Adam sent an email to the CEO of Chicopee but it was not answered as of Tuesday evening.

GuelphToday contacted a second woman who said she had a similar experience, but did not want her name to be used in a story.

Reached by email on Tuesday, Chicopee CEO Bill Creighton told GuelphToday the facility is a not-for-profit organization and not an essential service.

“We work very hard to be an inclusive facility, accessible to all, and it’s unfortunate that during this unprecedented COVID pandemic we have had to make the hard decision to be a Mask only – “NO exceptions” facility for the safety of our staff and patrons this year,” said Creighton.

Adam said it’s not just Chicopee. When she took to social media to bring up the issue she said a number of people reached out to her to offer support, many with their own examples

“Lots of businesses around Guelph have asked parents to mask their babies when they enter their doors. There are dozens of stories you can get from local moms. Where are the boundaries?” she said.

Adam said she is following public health guidelines by not putting a mask on her toddler. The government of Canada directive on masks says they should not be worn by anyone two years of age or younger.

“You are asking me to do something to my baby that Public Health and our top doctors have deemed as unsafe; babies have smaller airways and do not have the ability to rip it off by themselves,” said Adam. “Private property or not, you are open to the public and should respect the rules laid out by the government. If I do not listen to you and do this unsafe thing, I cannot enter?”

Adam said it is not abnormal for a parent to bring a baby when dropping off or picking up an older sibling from an activity.

“COVID or no COVID, babies go where parents go,” she said.

In Waterloo Region the rules about mask wearing are covered under a bylaw, unlike the local order by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. That bylaw in Waterloo Region offers an exemption to the mask-wearing policy for those under five years of age.

An email sent by GuelphToday to Waterloo Region's communications department seeking clarification on the bylaw was not answered by press time.

Creighton said Chicopee has instituted many safety protocols in response to COVID-19 to allow it to continue to operate, including the mask policy.

“If this is a policy that you can not respect, then we are not the place for you to come this winter,” he said. “We trust as difficult as this is, that you understand, and hope to welcome you back when this is over.”

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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