As a further step to minimize the spread of COVID-19, on June 30, 2020 Toronto City Council passed a temporary by-law requiring masks or face coverings in all indoor spaces that are openly accessible to the public. A copy of the City’s press release is available here. A copy of the by-law is available here.
When does the by-law take effect?
The by-law takes effect on July 7, 2020 at 12:01 am. The by-law is temporary and, unless extended by City Council, the by-law will be automatically revoked on the first day after the first City Council meeting of the fall, which is currently scheduled for September 30 and October 1, 2020.
What does this mean for my business?
Under the new by-law, businesses in the City of Toronto that are open to the public are required to adopt a policy to ensure masks or face coverings are worn in indoor public spaces under their control. Any individual not wearing a mask or face covering will not be permitted entry to any enclosed public space. All employees must be trained on the requirements of the policy and by-law.
While employees must wear a mask or face covering when working in any enclosed public space, the by-law contains an exemption which allows employees and agents not to wear a mask or face covering if they are working within an area designated for them and not for public access, or within or behind a physical barrier.
As such, it appears that under the by-law, businesses that are not open to the public at all need not require employees to wear a mask. However, all businesses must comply with public health guidance including the recommendation that people wear a mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Lastly, businesses that are open to the public must post at all entrances to their establishment a sign which contains the following text:
ALL PERSONS ENTERING OR REMAINING IN THESE PREMISES SHALL WEAR A MASK OR FACE COVERING WHICH COVERS THE NOSE, MOUTH AND CHIN AS REQUIRED UNDER CITY OF TORONTO BY-LAW _________-2020
Is Anyone Exempt from the By-law’s Requirement to Wear a Mask or Face Covering?
The by-law does not apply to:
- Schools, post-secondary institutions and child care facilities;
- Private transportation and public transportation (although the TTC has made face masks mandatory); and
- Hospitals, independent health facilities and offices of regulated health professionals.
In addition, there are certain individuals who are exempt from the requirement to wear a mask or face covering:
- Children under the age of 2;
- Persons with underlying medical conditions which inhibit their ability to wear a mask or face covering;
- Persons who are unable to place or remove a mask or face covering without assistance;
- Employees and agents of the business who are within an area designated for them and not for public access, or within or behind a physical barrier; and
- Persons who are reasonably accommodated by not wearing a mask or face covering in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The by-law states that members of the public are not required to provide proof of any of the above-noted exemptions.
Further, individuals are permitted to temporarily remove their mask or face covering where it is necessary for the purpose of receiving services or while actively engaging in athletic or fitness activities.
What are the penalties for non-compliance?
Individuals and corporations not in compliance with this by-law are guilty of an offence and liable to a fine as provided for by the Provincial Offences Act. The amount of the fine has not yet been set.
What if my business is not in Toronto; are other Ontario municipalities requiring masks and face coverings in indoor public spaces?
As the City of Toronto notes in its press release, “…a growing body of scientific evidence suggests the use of masks and face coverings is an inexpensive, acceptable, and non-invasive measure to help control the spread of COVID-19.” As a result, an increasing number of Ontario municipalities have either implemented or plan to implement similar laws requiring masks and face coverings in indoor public spaces:
*Chart is current as of July 2, 2020.