As the province creeps toward reopening and residents are once again sharing public spaces in the middle of a pandemic, thousands of people have signed online petitions protesting Quebec’s new face mask rule. The change.org petition, created by Geneviève Sénécal, is calling for the province to cancel its decision to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces across the province starting July 18. It has gathered more than 55,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
Over the past few months, numerous studies have shown that mask-wearing is a simple but effective measure that could limit the spread of COVID-19.
A meta-analysis, published in The Lancet in June, analyzed research from 172 studies in 16 countries and found that mask-wearing was strongly correlated with reduced risk of contracting the disease.
"Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection with stronger associations with N95 or similar respirators compared with disposable surgical masks or similar (coverings)," it stated.
Despite this, the petition opposes the mask mandate for a variety of reasons including freedom and individual rights, doubts surrounding the deadliness of the disease, the effectiveness of face coverings, and a mistrust of government data.
"There remains a vagueness about the real usefulness of the mask in the context of this type of virus, and that no convincing data have been provided to us so far to justify its use," it states.
During one of his daily COVID-19 updates in May, Premier François Legault first urged all Quebecers to wear masks in public.
He fell short of making them mandatory for a number of reasons including a scarcity of masks, uncertainty surrounding their effectiveness, and economic factors.
But on Monday, in a dramatic turn of events, Legault said masks would be mandatory in public spaces starting Saturday for everyone aged 12 and up, though people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing them will be exempt.
Under the new rules, business owners could face fines of $400 to $6,000 for serving customers without face coverings indoors, said the premier.
Respecting this obligation must be everyone’s responsibility. I therefore salute the government's willingness to ad… https://t.co/p3I0JHVTVC— Valérie Plante (@Valérie Plante) 1594661721.0
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante applauded the government’s decision.
"Thank you to the @GouvQc for listening to us and for deciding to make face coverings mandatory in all of the province as of July 18," she tweeted.
"It's the right decision to protect us all."
As of July 13, masks are mandatory on public transit in Quebec, including Montreal’s metro and bus networks.
The STM will be handing out reusable face coverings at a number of metro stops around the city for the next two weeks.