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Parents up in arms against an Ontario school board’s move to keep masks on -Breaking


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: This view depicts snow-covered Hamilton following a snowstorm in Ontario Canada, January 17th, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

By Alexander Schummer

TORONTO (Reuters] – Students in Canada’s largest province are returning to school with no masks after two years. However, the Ontario School Board is being criticized for refusing to remove masks from classes. This could lead to a conflict over a potentially contentious pandemic.

Canada has seen the rise of anti-government protests over pandemic measures and mask mandate. A three week long demonstration was held in Ottawa, Canada last month.

Hamilton-Wentworth District Schools Board (HWDSB), voted against the removal of the mask mandate. They proposed that teachers and students remain masked up to April 15, in order to safeguard the medically fragile.

After Chief Medical Officer for Health in Ontario Kieran Moore rejected several requests by other schools boards, Ontario’s 30 remaining public school boards have decided to comply with the order.

Hamilton parents criticize the board’s decision. They claim the policy is pointless and potentially illegal. HWDSB houses approximately 50,000 students.

Alyssa Vankleek from Hamilton, said that her children would not be allowed to wear masks. She also warned them to call me if they attempt to make their kids wear one.

“The provincial government told my child it was okay to remove a mask from most situations. She added that the school board had no authority to inform us differently.

But, Dr. Armand Keating (clinician scientist, staff hematologist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) said that the “increasing frequency of cases with the more transmissible BA.2 variant lends support to a more cautious approach.”

HWDSB won’t be able to enforce masking requirements when the mandate expires, because Ontario schools have no mask policies. Prohibiting a maskless student from attending school could be deemed a breach of the child’s rights, according to the Ontario Education Act and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


An exception to this rule, however, can be found in the Health Protection and Promotion Act, which gives the municipality’s health officer power to override the provincial government’s laws.

Miranda Butler, Hamilton mom of her two children in elementary school said that she cannot mandate the use of masks. It’s an unreasonable request, especially when they don’t have the support of public health,” she said. She also noted that her children would continue wearing masks.

HWDSB refused to comment on how they plan to handle students and teachers who attend schools that do not have masks.

HWDSB requested support from the Ontario Ministry of Education for its masking policy. Elizabeth Richardson (medical officer of health for Hamilton) said Public Health Services will continue its collaboration with the province, local school board, to “help balance COVID-19 risks and the risk to the mental and emotional health of children, their learning, and their health.”

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario also supports the elimination of the mandate. The request for comments from Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers’ Local and Ontario Teachers Federation was not received.

ETFO President Karen Brown said that Ontarions have relied upon public health officials to provide leadership with an evidence-based and science-based approach. “Unfortunately, it appears that a fast-approaching June election is influencing politicians’ decisions to lift COVID-19 safety measures,” Brown added.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the decision is based on the chief medical officer’s advice and encourages schools to stick with the province’s end date.

Ford’s Office did not respond to a request for comment regarding whether or not the coming provincial election had played an important role.