While Stage 3 allows many businesses in Ontario to reopen and to welcome returning employees back to the physical workplace, employers and service providers—as operators of enclosed public spaces and establishments—must meet certain recently announced conditions. As of July 7, 2020, at 12:01 a.m., these conditions now include the mandatory covering of the mouth, nose and chin for members of the public and employees in indoor public spaces in Ontario’s two largest municipalities, Toronto and Ottawa. On July 30, 2020, the Province of Ontario unveiled its plan for reopening schools in the 2020-2021 school year, which will require students in grades four to twelve to wear face coverings indoors, as well as all school-based teachers and staff. Students in Kindergarten to grade 3 will be encouraged but not required to wear face coverings indoors.

The following information outlines what employers and service providers need to know in Toronto, Ottawa and other areas of Ontario.

How did the requirement come into being in Toronto and Ottawa?

In Toronto, face covering requirements were implemented via by-law. See the links above.

In Ottawa, the requirements were first ordered by the City’s Medical Officer of Health. Recently, on July 15, 2020, Ottawa passed a by-law, which supersedes the initial medical order linked above. The by-law will expire at the conclusion of the next Council meeting on August 26, 2020, unless it is otherwise extended by Council.

The information contained in this document has been updated to reflect the recent changes introduced by Ottawa’s by-law dated July 15, including:

  • The redefinition of “enclosed public space”, which now includes temporary structures, municipal facilities, public transit property, and other businesses, organizations, or places that are permitted to operate;
  • Changes where face covering requirements do not mandatorily apply, including professional services offices where clients receive services, but which are not open to the general public;
  • Changes to the wording of signage that must be posted in affected establishments, in both English and French; and
  • Penalties for non-compliance.

Where must face coverings be worn in Toronto and Ottawa?

In Ottawa and Toronto, face coverings are, respectively, required in public indoor establishments or enclosed public spaces, including places where food is served; in stores and malls; religious buildings; cultural and entertainment facilities, such as libraries, art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos, theaters, cinemas, and casinos; common areas of hotels and short term rentals; community centres; and event spaces, such as banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, and stadiums.

In Toronto, specifically, community service agencies and real estate showings also require face coverings. Furthermore, on July 29, 2020, Toronto City Council passed a temporary by-law requiring apartment and condominium building owners or operators to have a mandatory face covering policy in place for enclosed common spaces, such as lobbies, elevators, and laundry rooms. Owners must also post a notice of the requirement. This bylaw came into force on August 5, 2020. Toronto City Council passed a second by-law on July 29, 2020, requiring that operators of adult entertainment clubs, billiard halls, eating or drinking establishments, entertainment establishments, nightclubs, or places of amusement ensure that customers remain seated at all times when they are in an indoor or outdoor area where food or drink is served, except to enter or exit the area, go to the washroom, or pay. The by-law also limits the number of people in an establishment and seated at a table. In addition, the by-law requires that owners maintain a customer log with the name, email address, and telephone number of at least one person from each party, the date they attended the establishment, their check in and check out time, table number, or where they were seated. This log must be maintained for 30 days and then destroyed. Owners must produce the log on request of the Medical Officer of Health or their designate in order to facilitate contact tracing. Notice of this data collection must be posted. This by-law came into force on August 5, 2020.

In Ottawa, specifically, coverings are also required at sports facilities; in transportation for hire, such as taxis; common areas of hospitals or the premises of a regulated health professional; temporary structures, such as trailers or temporary sales offices; municipal facilities; public transit property; and other businesses, organizations or places permitted to operate.

In all cases, face coverings must be worn before entering and while in the establishment.

Exceptions for certain establishments

In Toronto, exceptions to face covering requirements include: schools and child care facilities; private transportation and public transportation;[1] and hospitals, health facilities, and the offices of regulated health professionals.

In Ottawa, exceptions apply to schools; child care centers; day camps; offices of professional services, such as lawyers and accountants where clients are receiving services in areas not open to the general public; and public transportation.[2] Furthermore, face coverings may be temporarily removed where it is necessary to receive services or to engage in athletic activities, in addition to emergency or medical purposes.

What are the health and safety requirements for employers and service providers operating in indoor/enclosed public spaces in Toronto and Ottawa?

  • Adopt a policy: Adopt a policy that requires members of the public to wear a face covering that covers their mouth, nose, and chin in the establishment. Authorities may request a copy of the policy for inspection to ensure compliance.
  • Post notices: In Toronto, post a notice at all exits and entrances stating:

ALL PERSONS ENTERING OR REMAINING IN THESE PREMISES SHALL WEAR A MASK OR FACE COVERING WHICH COVERS THE NOSE, MOUTH AND CHIN AS REQUIRED UNDER CITY OF TORONTO BY-LAW 541-2020

  • In Ottawa, post a notice at all exits and entrances stating, in both English and French:

All persons entering or remaining in these premises must wear a mask that covers the nose, mouth, and chin as required under City of Ottawa By-law 2020-186.

Toutes les personnes qui entrent ou restent dans ces locaux doivent porter un masque qui couvre le nez, la bouche et le menton, comme l’exige le règlement 2020-186 de la Ville d’Ottawa.

  • Remind patrons: Ottawa specifically requires employers and service providers operating in indoor/enclosed public spaces to remind any person not wearing a face covering of the rules, and to provide alcohol-based hand rub at all exits and entrances.
  • Provide training: Provide training to ensure employees are familiar with the newly announced measures and with the employer’s policy in that respect.

Exceptions for certain members of the public and employees

Although face coverings must be worn by members of the public in enclosed public spaces, certain members of the public are exempt, including children under the age of 2;  persons with medical conditions inhibiting their ability to wear a face covering; and persons unable to put a face covering on or to take a face covering off without assistance. In Ottawa, specifically, children under the age of five and individuals who, due to developmental disability, have the cognitive ability of a child under the age of five, are exempt if their caregiver cannot convince them to wear a face covering.

With respect to employees, there are also certain exemptions that apply, including employees in an area not for public access, employees behind a physical barrier, and persons who are reasonably accommodated by not wearing a face covering.

It should be noted that none of these exceptions require any supporting proof or documentation.

What are the consequences of non-compliance in Toronto and Ottawa?

In Toronto, employers and service providers may face a fine of up to $1,000.00 for non-compliance.

Ottawa initially relied on businesses to act in good faith. However, as noted above, City Council passed a by-law on July 15, 2020 that imposed a fine of not more than $500 for a conviction of an offence under the by-law. The Ottawa by-law also states that the Ontario Court of Justice may issue orders prohibiting the continuation or repetition of the offence, and requiring the person in contravention of the by-law to correct their contravention in a manner that the Court considers appropriate.

What other parts of the province are affected?

Stage 3

On July 17, Ontario implemented limited face covering requirements for regions in Stage 3, which include the following:

  • Patrons using personal care services, such as hair salons, barbershops, manicure and pedicure salons, aesthetician services, piercing services, tanning salons, spas and tattoo studies must wear face coverings.
  • Driving instructors and students receiving driving instruction must wear face coverings.

Read more about the province-wide face covering requirements for regions in Stage 3 here.

In specific regions

Several other regions in Ontario have required face coverings under conditions similar to those in Ottawa and Toronto:

  • In the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit, face coverings have been required since June 12, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirements in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph health unit here.
  • In the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, face coverings have been required since June 26, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in the Windsor-Essex health unit here.
  • In the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health area, face coverings have been required since June 27, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. The Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington Public Health order was revised on July 17, 2020, to address the transition into Stage 3. Read more about the face covering requirements in the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health area here.
  • The City of Burlington has required face coverings on public transportation since July 2, 2020. The Halton Regional Council has also imposed a face covering by-law, described below. Read more about face covering requirements in the City of Burlington here. Note that on July 28, 2020, the City of Burlington amended their face covering requirements by removing the word “face shield” in the definition of masks. Read more about the amendments to the face covering requirements in the City of Burlington here. On August 14, 2020, the City of Burlington also announced that face coverings are required in most common areas of condominium and apartment buildings, with the same exemptions as those applying to enclosed public spaces.
  • In the listed districts of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, face coverings have been required since July 7, 2020. Read more about the face covering requirements in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit here.
  • In the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, face coverings have been required since July 7, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirements in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit here.
  • In Durham Region, face coverings have been required in commercial establishments since July 10, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirements in Durham Region here. Durham Region updated the face covering order on July 28. Read more about the updated face covering requirement in Durham Region here.
  • In the Public Health Sudbury and Districts, face coverings have been required since July 8, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the Public Health Sudbury and Districts requirements here.
  • In the Hastings Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, face coverings have been required since July 10, 2020, at 12:00 p.m. Read more about the Hastings Prince Edward Counties Health Unit face covering requirements here.
  • The Peel Public Health region has required face coverings since July 10, 2020, through a series of by-laws. Read more about the Peel Region’s approach here. Read more about the by-law in Caledon here. Read more about the by-law in Brampton here. Read more about the by-law in Mississauga here.
  • In York Region, face coverings have been mandatory since July 17, 2020, at 12:01 p.m. Read more about the York Region face covering requirements here.
  • In the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, face coverings have been required since July 13, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. On July 16, 2020, the face covering requirement was expanded to cover more businesses, effective July 17 at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit face covering requirements here.
  • In the Region of Waterloo, face coverings have been required in enclosed public places and on public transit since July 13, 2020. Read more about the Region of Waterloo face covering requirements here and here.
  • The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has required face coverings since July 13, 2020. Read more about the face covering requirement in the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit here.
  • In the Renfrew County & District Health Unit, face coverings have been mandatory since July 14, 2020. Read more about the face covering requirements in the Renfrew County & District Health Unit here.
  • The Town of Halton Hills required face coverings after July 16, 2020. However, in deference to the Halton region face covering requirement, Halton Hills has repealed the municipal by-law. Read more about the, now repealed, face covering requirements in Halton Hills here.
  • The Algoma Public Health unit has required face coverings as of July 17, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirements in the Algoma Public health unit here.
  • The Grey Bruce Health Unit has required face coverings since July 17, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirements in the Grey Bruce Health Unit here.
  • The City of St. Catharines has required face coverings as of July 17, 2020. Read more about the St. Catharines face covering requirements here.
  • Huron Perth Public Health has required face coverings since July 17, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the Huron Perth Public Health face covering requirement here.
  • The City of Brantford has required face coverings since July 17, 2020. Read more about the City of Brantford by-law here.
  • The City of Burlington has required face coverings since July 20, 2020. Read about the face covering requirements in Burlington here.
  • The County of Brant has required face coverings since July 20, 2020. Read more about the face covering requirement in the County of Brant here. On August 11, 2020, the County of Brant amended the by-law to extend its expiry date to October 28, 2020. Read more about the extension of the County of Brant by-law here.
  • The City of Hamilton has required face coverings since July 20, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the bylaw in the City of Hamilton here.
  • In the Middlesex-London Health Unit, face coverings have been required on public transit, in private transportation for hire, and in Personal Care Service Establishments since July 20, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the Middlesex-London Health Unit face covering requirements here. A third order made face coverings mandatory in all indoor enclosed public spaces as of July 18, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the general face covering order in the Middlesex-London Health Unit here.
  • The Municipality of Strathroy-Caradoc has required face coverings since July 20, 2020. Read more about the by-law in Strathroy-Caradoc here.
  • The City of London has required face coverings since July 21, 2020. Read more about the by-law in London here.
  • The Municipality of Middlesex Centre has required face coverings since July 22, 2020. Read more about the by-law in Middlesex Center here.
  • The Halton Regional Council has required face coverings since July 22, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in the Halton Region here. This by-law co-exists with the requirements in Burlington.
  • The Porcupine Health Unit has required face coverings since July 23, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in the Porcupine Health Unit here.
  • Niagara-on-the-Lake has required face coverings since July 23, 2020. Read more about the face covering requirement in Niagara-on-the-Lake here.
  • The Thunder Bay District Health Unit has required face coverings since July 24, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit here.
  • The Timiskaming Health Unit has required face coverings since July 24, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in Timiskaming Health Unit here.
  • The North Bay Parry Sound District has required face coverings since July 24, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the order in the North Bay Parry Sound District here.
  • Norfolk County has required face coverings since July 24, 2020. Read more about the by-law in Norfolk County here.
  • The Brant County Health Unit has required face coverings since July 28, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Read more about the Brant County Health Unit order here.
  • Riders on buses in Chatham-Kent have been required to wear face coverings since July 29, 2020. Read more about the mask requirement on CKtransit here.
  • Southwestern Public Health has required face coverings since July 30, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Businesses were given a grace period until August 6, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. to implement their policies. Read more about the Southwestern Public Health face covering requirement here.
  • The Niagara Regional Council has required face coverings since July 31, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the by-law in the Niagara Region here.
  • Sarnia city council has passed a by-law making face coverings mandatory as of July 31, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the by-law in Sarnia here.
  • Peterborough Public Health has issued a directive making face coverings mandatory as of August 1, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
  • The Haldimand County Council passed a by-law requiring face coverings as of August 1, 2020. Read more about the by-law in the Haldimand County here.
  • The Township of Adelaide Metcalfe has required face coverings since August 4, 2020. Read more about the face covering requirement in the Township of Adelaide Metcalfe here.
  • The Town of Aylmer has required face coverings since August 6, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Read more about the by-law in the Town of Aylmer here.
  • The Municipality of Leamington has passed a by-law expanding the requirements imposed by the Windsor-Essex Health Unit. The by-law came into force on August 11, 2020. Read more about the Leamington face covering requirement here.
  • Media reports indicate that the Town of Lakeshore is adopting a by-law expanding the requirements imposed by the Windsor-Essex Health Unit. Read more about the by-law in the Town of Lakeshore here.
  • The Chatham-Kent council has required face coverings since August 14, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in Chatham-Kent here.
  • The Town of Petrolia has required face coverings since August 14, 2020. Read more about the face covering requirement in Petrolia here.
  • The Mayor of Windsor has issued a temporary mask order expanding the requirements imposed by the Windsor-Essex Health Unit. The order comes into force on August 19, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., and is automatically terminated when City Council passes a by-law. Read more about the order in Windsor here.
  • The Northwestern Health Unit will require face coverings as of August 17, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in the Northwestern Health Unit here.
  • The Municipality of Lambton Shores has required face coverings since August 24, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in Lambton Shores here.
  • The Village of Point Edward has required face coverings since August 25, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. Read more about the face covering requirement in the Village of Point Edward here.
  • Media reports indicate that the Lake Wood District Hospital in Kenora is allowing designated visitors in hospital; however they must wear a face covering.

On the horizon

Lambton is now the only health unit with municipalities that does not have mandatory face covering requirements. While the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit has not issued a unit-wide order, the counties of Haldimand and Norfolk have each issued their own by-laws. However, changes to face covering regimes are still being made as follows:

  • Media reports indicate that Grey and Bruce Counties, which are currently subject to a face covering requirement at the health-unit level, will consider enacting a county by-law in September. Dr. Ian Arra, the Medical Officer of Health, believes by-laws are less intrusive and less extreme than his Order. On August 14, 2020, Dr. Arra extended the Order for a further 28 calendar days to give sufficient time to the county councils to enact a by-law. Read more about the extension of the order in the Grey Bruce Public Health unit here.

To find out what health unit your business is in, click here or here.

In Quebec

For more information on face covering requirements, please click here (in French only).

We will keep you updated as new developments are made public.

The author would like to thank Alexander Carden, summer student, for his assistance in preparing this piece.

[1] Face coverings are mandatory on public transportation even though Toronto has exempted public transportation from this by-law. The TTC requires face coverings. Exemptions, such as for children under the age of 2, or those with a medical condition preventing them from wearing face coverings, are included in the policy. Face coverings are also mandatory on GO trains and GO buses. GO Transit requires face coverings. GO Transit’s policy exempts people with health or personal reasons not to wear face coverings. Similarly, VIA Rail requires face coverings in the stations and on-board its trains. There is an exception for young children, people with breathing difficulties, and while eating or drinking.

[2] Face coverings are mandatory on public transportation even though Ottawa has exempted public transportation from this by-law. OC Transpo requires face coverings. Exemptions, such as for children under the age of 2, or those with a medical condition preventing them from wearing face coverings, are included in the policy.

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