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Mandatory face-covering mask bylaw limited to city buses

Yellowknife city council passed a bylaw Monday making it mandatory for residents to wear masks while travelling on city buses.

A $100 fine is the penalty for those who violate the new rule.

Last week, council showed support for requiring residents to wear face coverings on both city buses and in city facilities, based on a series of options presented by administration. The decision was largely due to council's expectation that bus rider demand will increase substantially starting on the first day of school, which is Aug. 31.

All riders of city buses will now be required to wear a non-medical or medical mask after city council endorsed a new bylaw at Monday night's regular council meeting.
NNSL file photo

Due to the public health orders from the chief public health officer (CPHO) put in place last March due to Covid-19, there has been a nine-passenger ridership limit.

"Capacity dropped, basically, at the same time that schools were out and government workers stopped using downtown offices and there also hasn't  been an issue over the summer because that is when there has been low ridership," Mayor Rebecca Alty said.

Senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett told council that the city received word on Monday that the CPHO agreed that a mask bylaw could allow for an increase in rider capacity to 25 from nine.

The maximum ridership per bus during normal times is 40 people per bus and Alty said that it appears that number cannot be brought back as the cap with the masks.

City facilities

Guidance from the CPHO on city facilities was still expected, Bassi-Kellett. Council decided on Monday night to drop that portion of the draft bylaw and deal with other facilities when more information is provided.

"Unfortunately, the chief public health officer is still reviewing whether mandating masks whether we can increase capacity from disabilities," Alty said. "So we're still waiting on more information on that."

Coun. Julian Morse said he had reservations about passing the bylaw and said that residents should keep in mind that council is counting on the recommendations made by the territorial government before making decisions regarding public health. He said he's open to repealing the bylaw as soon as it is safe and wants to avoid putting punitive measures in place for bus riders.

"The reason I am supportive is because it is something that is being mandated and recommended by the CPHO," Morse said. "I don't want to create situation where people get in trouble and it would be unfortunate to see someone get a $100 ticket" for a bylaw infringement.

Bassi-Kellett stressed, as she has in previous weeks, that the city is creating a public awareness campaign to ensure that people are responding to the bylaw because of being educated on the benefits it will bring with increased capacity.

Alty was strongly in favour of moving the bylaw forward.

"I really believe it would be chaos on Monday (Aug. 31) if we don't support it," she said.

"If we still only had nine people on the bus (capacity) the bus would make it to the first stop and there's nine people they would be drive by everyone else on their way to school or work. We would have had an earful. If we can get any changes,.

Only Coun. Rommel Silverio opposed the bylaw.