The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) is calling on the province of British Columbia to issue a mandatory mask mandate for indoor public spaces.

In a statement on Wednesday, the RCC said that businesses are bearing the brunt of aggressive customers refusing to wear face coverings.

“When customers refuse to wear masks in stores, it puts workers and other consumers at risk,” the RCC said.

They say that retailers have been following the advice of provincial health officials by incorporating masks into worksafe safety plans, posting signage, and offering free masks to customers.

However, the RCC says other provinces have implemented mandatory mask policies and B.C. needs to follow their lead to protect retail workers.

In Victoria, an incident at local retailer Bolen Books went viral when a group of anti-maskers refused to mask up or leave the store, despite employees offering options for shopping one-on-one mask free at a different time.

BC Ferries has also seen multiple instances of anti-mask protesters refusing to budge, despite the transport provider enforcing its own mandatory mask policy.

In a COVID-19 update on Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry voiced her opposition to a provincial mask mandate, saying enforcement and fines would not make a difference.

“It’s not me who can fine somebody, that’s not what’s going to make a difference here,” Dr. Henry said.

“What’s going to make a difference is that people know clearly the rules and situations that we’re going into.”

She also said that a mandatory mask policy would disproportionately affect marginalized segments of the population, citing the example of fine schemes early in the pandemic that harmed homeless individuals and racial minorities.

“We know that people with disabilities it’s not always clear that they’re not able to put on or take off a mask,” Dr. Henry said.

“We know that racialized communities and people who are homeless, people who are underhoused are more likely to be targeted with fines when we have those types of settings.”

She maintained that the onus is on businesses and organizations, which are all required to have COVID-19 safety plans in accordance with WorkSafeBC guidelines, to make sure mandatory mask rules are in place.

Amid an exponential rise in cases in the province, Dr. Henry and Premier John Horgan said there would be new health orders issued at the COVID-19 update on Thursday.

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