Human Rights Code of BC does not protect personal preference not to wear a mask when shopping
The BC Human Rights Code and Tribunal
The BC Human Rights Tribunal deals with human rights complaints made under the BC Human Rights Code, namely resolving complaints of discrimination by holding hearings, helping the parties settle, and deciding preliminary applications to dismiss complaints.
The Customer v. The Store, 2021 BCHRT 39
In The Customer v. The Store, 2021 BCHRT 39, a customer filed a complaint against a grocery store alleging that, in requiring that she wear a mask, the store discriminated against her based on her physical and mental disability, in violation of s. 8 of the Human Rights Code which prohibits discrimination in accommodation, service and facility.
However, the Customer failed to set out facts that, if proved, could establish that she has a physical or mental disability that was a factor in this adverse impact. She simply contended that wearing a mask makes it “very difficult to breathe” and “causes anxiety”. In refusing to proceed with the complaint, the Tribunal said that the Customer’s explanation, on its own, is not enough to trigger the protection of the Code. The Tribunal further explained:
“… 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. Rather, the Code only protects people from discrimination based on certain personal characteristics, including disability. This protection is reflected in exemptions to mask‐wearing rules for people whose disabilities prevent them from being able to wear a mask or other face covering. Any claim of disability discrimination arising from a requirement to wear a mask must begin by establishing that the complainant has a disability that interferes with their ability to wear the mask.”