BC Human rights commissioner calls lifting of mask mandate a ‘hasty end’ with unequal effects across society


By Link News Desk

BC health minister calls it balance between measures and impact, asks people to be more considerate about other’s choices.

VANCOUVER: A person high in official position has formally stepped out to challenge province’s decision to lift mask mandate. B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender in a letter that has been made public,has urged the Public Health Officer (PHO) Dr Bonnie Henry to maintain the mask mandate to ensure protection as many students across B.C. have returned to school after spring break amid a pandemic that has not ended, but without the protection offered by mask mandates.

Govender wrote in the letter, “As you have noted repeatedly for the past two years, mask wearing is a simple and effective means for members of our society to protect one another from transmission of the virus. Those who have benefited most from this public health intervention have been those at greatest risk from the virus. 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 immunocompromised people, older people, Indigenous and racialized peoples, people with disabilities, and lowincome 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.

In an email response to LINK newspaper, BC’s health minister Adrian Dix while explaining province’s decision on lifting mask mandate said, “We decided to lift the indoor mask order after carefully considering people who are clinically vulnerable and where we are in B.C. in this pandemic.Every decision we make is a balance between the need to have measures in place and the impact these measures can have on people, including people who are clinically vulnerable.”

“We have been focused on people who are clinically vulnerable since the beginning of the pandemic and we will continue to be. B.C.’s vaccination rate is one of the highest in the world, and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to trend downward,” Dix added.

Also he requested people to be considerate about others choices. “We understand that some people are anxious that masks are now optional for people in all indoor public settings.People should still make decisions based on their own comfort levels and risk factors, and other people need to be respectful of those decisions.Now more than ever is the time to be kind and understanding toward other people’s choices.”

Dix also assured that the provincial government is continuing to monitor COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death rates very closely. “We will continue to keep British Columbians informed so they can make the best decisions for themselves, their loved ones and their fellow British Columbians.”