Human Rights Code can't protect anti-maskers making unproven claims: tribunal

Rights don't trump masks

A decision by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal says anyone denied service for refusing to wear a mask must be ready to prove they have a disability if they intend to file a complaint.

The warning is contained in a screening decision published Wednesday as tribunal member Steven Adamson addresses what he describes as a large volume of complaints alleging discrimination related to mask requirements.

Screening decisions are among the first steps in a tribunal investigation and are rarely released, but Adamson says he's publishing his findings because there have been many similar complaints since last October.

In his decision, Adamson rejects that an unnamed customer's human rights were violated when a security guard asked her to leave an unnamed store for refusing to wear a mask.

The ruling says the woman claimed the mask order is "pointless" and masks make breathing difficult and cause anxiety, but she would not explain any physical disability that might prevent use of a mask.

In tossing out the complaint, Adamson says although the woman has reported an "adverse impact" regarding service in the store, she hasn't offered any facts about a physical or mental condition.

"The Code does not protect people who refuse to wear a mask as a matter of personal preference, because they believe wearing a mask is 'pointless,' or because they disagree that wearing masks helps to protect the public during the pandemic," Adamson writes.

He says the code only protects from discrimination based on certain personal characteristics, including disability, and any claim of discrimination must begin by establishing the disability interferes with mask use.

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