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Masks mandatory in public places in Jasper

Wearing a face covering is now compulsory in indoor public places and some public outdoor places in downtown Jasper.

The mayor and councillors agreed that they have a responsibility to Jasper residents and visitors to make wearing face coverings mandatory and voted unanimously to pass a new bylaw  and adapt an existing one at their August 4 meeting to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Face coverings are now required in all public indoor spaces, including all businesses, facilities, patios and indoor areas that are open to the public.

Councillors Rico Damota and Paul Butler, Mayor Richard Ireland, and councillors Helen Kelleher-Empey and Bert Journault (and, not pictured, Jenna McGrath and Scott Wilson) voted unanimously to make face coverings mandatory in public places in Jasper.Municipality of Jasper

You must also wear a mask or face covering outdoors on the west side of Connaught Drive between Hazel Avenue and Aspen Avenue; on Patricia Street between Hazel Avenue and Pyramid Lake Road; on all connecting public sidewalks between those streets; and on all public sidewalks where a two-metre distance cannot be maintained.

There are several exceptions to the rule, including children under two, people prevented from wearing a face covering due to medical conditions, and people eating in restaurants while at assigned seating.

Christine Nadon, legislative services manager, said: “The bylaw comes into effect immediately but won’t be enforced until we give businesses a few days to put signage up, and give the general public a chance to become aware of the legislation.”

The municipality will communicate with businesses and visitors extensively over the next few days, and work towards compliance before enforcement, as is ongoing practice with the bylaw department.

Not following the new bylaw – not wearing a mask in indoor public places, or a business failing to display signage – comes with a fine of $250.

You could also be fined $150 to $500 for not wearing a mask or face-covering on public sidewalks in the specified areas above, and public outdoor places where maintaining a two metre distance is not possible under the municipality’s existing Conduct in Public Places bylaw.

Details of the outdoor restrictions were being confirmed by the municipality at the time the Fitzhugh went to press.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jasper mayor Richard Ireland pointed out that the bylaw couldn’t be passed without certification from Parks Canada. He worked with Alan Fehr, superintendent of Jasper National Park, to find a way to do the three readings required and have it passed the same day. 

Ireland said, “We still need people to wear masks, take responsibility for themselves.”

He emphasized that in the prevention of COVID-19 transmission, “all those other measures are equally important”. 

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “We all have a role to play.”

Coun. Paul Butler said he was disappointed that a bylaw was necessary to motivate people to wear them. 

Council received more than 20 letters this week from concerned Jasper citizens urging the municipality to follow the lead of other communities that have already made wearing face coverings mandatory. 

In one letter, Nathan D’Heer wrote that he is well aware of hurdles that other communities are facing when implementing mandatory mask usage, but “if cities like Melbourne, Miami, Orlando and Calgary are doing it, then what is our excuse?” 

The Jasper community, he continued, needs to stop taking reactive measures and start taking preventative measures. 

“No bylaw is as urgent as this one at this time,” said Jack Bennett. 

In their letter, Louise Colman-Bradford and Wes Bradford wrote, the soft approach council had taken to motivate people to wear face coverings – signs at the entrances to town, along streets – isn’t working and wearing face coverings needs to be mandatory. 

The bottom line for Lorna Corneyko is “as a resident of Jasper National Park, I would sooner be able to look back and say ‘Maybe we didn’t have to mask’ than have to look back and say ‘Maybe we should have masked.’ It is the one thing we can all do to help.” She asked for both a mandatory ruling and enforcement of it.

By Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Jasper Fitzhugh