Mar 20, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, after students in Canada’s most populous province return to mask-free classes after two years on Monday, one Ontario school board faced backlash for defying the province’s decision to drop masks.
This move could potentially set the stage for a clash on a contentious pandemic issue as mask mandate and other pandemic measures have already become a sensitive issue in Canada for an anti-government movement, sparking a three-week protest in capital Ottawa last month.
Some Hamilton parents have criticized the board’s decision after the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) voted against removing the mask mandate and proposed keeping students and teachers masked until April 15 to protect the medically vulnerable.
Ontario’s remaining 30 public school boards are planning to follow the government order after Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Kieran Moore turned down requests from several other school boards to keep mask mandates.
Some Hamilton parents have criticized the board’s decision, saying the policy is “pointless” and “potentially unlawful.”
Experts disagree however as Dr Armand Keating, clinician scientist and staff hematologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, pointed out that “the increasing frequency of cases of the more transmissible BA.2 variant lends further support for a more cautious approach”.
Once the mandate expires, it will be difficult for HWDSB to implement masking requirements because Ontario schools do not have their own masking policies.
According to the Ontario Education Act and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, barring an unmasked student from going to school could be considered a violation of a child’s rights.
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