Calgary man files human rights complaint over removal of airplane mask mandates
A Calgary man has filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission over the federal government’s decision to lift mask requirements on planes.
The decision, announced on Monday, is part of a bundle of changes which come into force on October 1. At that time, travelers will no longer be required to wear masks on trains, provide proof of vaccinations or submit public health information with the ArriveCan app.
« I was frankly appalled when I heard the news, » said Dr. David Keegan, a family physician with cardiopulmonary disease.
Keegan said while planes have filtration systems, they don’t completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, especially if people aren’t masked.
He noted that people travel for many reasons (he traveled to Toronto earlier this year for surgery) and that the government has a duty to accommodate people with disabilities.
Lifting the mask mandate creates « an unwelcoming and unaccommodating environment for people with compromised immune systems, cardiopulmonary diseases, etc, » he said.
“So I expect the government to realize the error of this decision and keep the mask mandate in place,” he said.
In a statement on Monday, the government said it always strongly recommends people wear high-quality, well-fitting masks when travelling.
Complaint part of larger trend, expert says
Lorian Hardcastle, an associate professor in the faculties of law and medicine at the University of Calgary, sees Keegan’s complaint as part of a larger trend.
Earlier in the pandemic, most litigation over public health measures argued that these measures were too strict. But Hardcastle said that has started to change.
« Since the spring, we’ve been starting to see cases saying the opposite — where people are saying public health measures aren’t tough enough, » Hardcastle said.
She pointed to a recent case involving parents of immunocompromised children who argued that removing mask mandates from Alberta schools was damaging their children’s health. charter rights.
Hardcastle said human rights law generally requires service providers – whether landlords, stores or airlines – to offer their services in a way that does not discriminate against people with disabilities.
This means they must provide reasonable accommodations up to a point of « undue hardship », she said.
« It’s that tipping point of accommodations that we can ask of those providing services, and when do those accommodations become so onerous that they constitute an undue hardship, » she said.
What remains to be seen, she said, is where courts and tribunals decide to draw that line.
« I hope, however, that once a few [these cases] are resolved, it will help other service providers then adjust their policies in light of what they see emerging from the case law,” she said.
As for Keegan, he said the human rights commission has acknowledged receipt of his complaint and he is awaiting next steps.