Denice Pepe | March 23, 2022
After a two-hour debate, city politicians voted 10-3 against reintroducing a mask bylaw in London.
The emergency meeting was held to debate the motion co-signed by councillors Jesse Helmer, Maureen Cassidy and Stephen Turner to reintroduce local mask mandates in London public buildings a day after they were lifted across the province.
The motion failed to gain support from other councillors, despite Turner’s plea for public safety.
“I think the province lifted the mandates early and the science doesn’t support it,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.
Turner said he is concerned about the health and safety of Londoners, comparing the pandemic’s impact on the London Community to the Victoria Day Disaster of 1891 where 182 lives were lost in the shipwreck.
“We saw 356 deaths over two years associated with Covid… that’s like having a [Victoria Day Disaster] once a year and I’d prefer not to see another one in 2022.”
Despite public health concerns, Turner said he understands why his fellow councillors were against it.
“People have been looking forward to not having interventions in place. It’s been a long time and people are tired,” said Turner.“That was certainly reflected in the vote.”
The issue was met with opposition from other city councillors, including Coun. Shawn Lewis.
“The chief medical officer of health for Ontario said that a mandate is no longer necessary because of the risk levels. Nobody’s denying that there is still risk there. For a council to make that call on their own would be grossly overstepping our authority in my view,” said Lewis in an interview.
The issue was also a hot topic among Londoners, who weighed in on both sides Wednesday on London social media feeds. But some said they were willing to compromise.
Londoner Yvonne Guichelaar-Stevens is in remission from breast cancer, and plans to wear a mask herself but she said the end of mask mandates won’t stop her from going out in the community.
“I choose to still wear my mask in restaurants and at arenas… but there are other people I know who choose not to,” she said.
Guichelaar-Stevens says that even if some believe it is too early to remove masks mandates there should be respectful towards other’s personal choice.
“We need to all get along and love one another… we can’t let one opinion divide us.”
After a two hour discussion including a confidential session to receive legal advice, the result is that London will remain in line with current provincial mask rules.