A video of a woman refusing to wear a face mask on the Canada Line despite several warnings from a Metro Vancouver Transit Police officer has gone viral on social media.
The video shows an officer donning a face mask and standing in front of the unmasked woman who is filming the video. She repeatedly tells the officer that she can't wear a mask and shows him a medical exemption card. However, he calmly tells her that she will have to leave the train if she does not put on a facial covering.
"I should be able to get home safe and sound without being harassed and judged," the woman says.
Transit Police Sgt. Clint Hampton tells Vancouver Is Awesome that the incident took place on Dec. 5, 2020 when officers were doing mask compliance checks, per the Provincial Health Order, at Vancouver City Centre.
"She initially produced a TransLink exemption card. The officer explained that the exemption cards are no longer valid as they were issued by TransLink and not related to the new provincial health order," he explains.
"Her behaviour escalated to the point that passengers were distancing themselves from the woman who was now yelling."
After several warnings, the woman was eventually told that she was under arrest for causing a disturbance. "The woman resisted being arrested and kicked the officer in the groin," he adds.
Eventually, the officer was able to gain control of the woman and place her under arrest. Transit Police recommended charges of Cause Disturbance, Assaulting a Police Officer, and she was issued a Provincial Violation Ticket under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act.
World's most composed transit police officer vs. "medically exempt" anti-masker resisting arrest on a train in Vancouver, BC from r/PublicFreakout
Metro Vancouver Transit Police on the EPA mask mandate order
In November, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that masks had to be worn in all indoor public places. This includes modes of transit and includes transit vehicles, as well as bus shelters, and stations and platforms of SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus and West Coast Express. Since then Transit Police have been actively enforcing the Provincial Health Order.
These are the most current numbers Transit Police have for tickets being issued:
- 2020 = 228 mask related tickets
- 2021 (as of Feb. 21) = 94 mask related tickets
Hampton says Transit Police also experienced an increase in obstructive behaviours and officers being assaulted during their interactions with persons who refuse to abide by these regulations. "Officers enforcing the regulations are already at an increased personal risk by having to deal with people who are unmasked and whose health status is unknown during a pandemic. Further causing concern is that often these anti-maskers are immediately confrontational and in some circumstances physically combative with officers from the onset of the interaction."
The number one priority for the Transit Police is public safety and enforcing mandatory masks on transit is therefore of utmost importance, adds Hampton.
Subject to a $230 fine
And while everyone has the right to express their opinion, Hampton adds that their actions need to be legal and not put officers at risk. If someone refuses to wear a mask, they are subject to a $230 fine.
If someone believes they were unjustly fined, "there is an established dispute process in place. This is the appropriate method for a person to voice their view.
"We discourage anyone who is unhappy with the Provincial Health Order from resorting to serious criminal offences such as obstructing or assaulting a police officer, as this could result in criminal charges, which can have prolonged negative impacts for the person that will far exceed the end of the pandemic."