FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued today by Claire Roussel-Sullivan, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission:

On Oct. 8, 2020, the Government of New Brunswick updated its mandatory order under the Emergency Measures Act to include a mandatory mask rule in public spaces as a means to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Although the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission recognizes that mask wearing has been proven as an important public health measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as part of its mandate it has reviewed the measure as drafted and finds it reasonable and balanced in light of the public health goal and urgency.

In particular, we are pleased to see that the mandatory order applies the principles of the duty to accommodate under the act by accommodating individuals who are not able to wear a mask due to age, mental disability, or physical disability.

The commission encourages individuals who are exempt from wearing a mask, due to health or other protected grounds, to communicate with service providers, employers and landlords to find the appropriate accommodation. Businesses are urged to seek alternative ways to offer their services and individuals who are exempt from mask wearing, are required to accept reasonable accommodation while also paying special attention to physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and avoid, as much as possible, crowded places.

Over the past weeks, the commission has received numerous requests for information regarding masks, and is pleased that various government agencies and departments, employers and service providers have reached out to ensure they are properly applying the mandatory order and accommodations pursuant to the act.

For more information about the act or how the commission can assist, New Brunswickers can call 506-453-2301 or 1-888-471-2233 (toll-free in the province). They can also visit the commission’s website or send an email to hrc.cdp@gnb.ca.