Alberta law firm AFL seeks injunction to continue masking in schools

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A law firm representing students with disabilities and the Alberta Federation of Labor is in an Alberta courtroom seeking an injunction that would keep mandatory masking for students in schools until the issue can be argued in front of a judge.

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The public health order requiring mandatory mask-wearing for students ended in Alberta on Monday, but lawyers want the old rules requiring masks to remain pending a hearing seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision.

They say students who are identified only by their initials in court documents, all have disabilities and/or complex medical conditions and will face discrimination if mandatory masking among children, especially in schools, is discontinued.

The documents argue that the government’s decision to end mandatory masking appears to be arbitrary and unreasonable and is not based on available medical literature or current public health conditions.

“The decision made by the Chief Medical Officer was rushed,” Sharon Roberts, a partner at Roberts O’Kelly Law who is advocating for the injunction, said in a statement.

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“Removing universal masking in schools is forcing many children to choose between their education and their health – and in some cases, their lives.”

Unions representing school employees, including teacher assistants, are members of the AFL.

In a statement of his own, AFL chairman Gil McGowan called the decision to end the masking requirement “premature, reckless and irresponsible”.

“By lifting the province-wide mandate at the height of the fifth wave of the pandemic, the government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health are putting the health and safety of thousands of workers and hundreds of thousands of students,” he said. .

Responding to the legal action on social media, Prime Minister Jason Kenney said children were bearing an unfair share of the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic and it was time to ‘let children be children’ .

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Masks are still mandatory for ages two and older in indoor public places in Edmonton despite the province removing mask requirements for youth under 13 starting Monday.

Edmonton’s mask bylaw remains in effect and supersedes the end of the provincial mandate. The city rule does not extend to elementary schools, post-secondary institutions or daycares.

The city’s mandate is expected to be in effect until at least 28 days after Edmonton’s case rate drops below 100 per 100,000 population. The current case rate is 470. Unless repealed by the board earlier, the regulation would still be in effect when the province plans to end its widespread provincial mask mandate on March 1.

But Kenney said the provincial government is considering changing the law to prohibit municipalities from making their own decisions on mask mandates. Earlier in the pandemic, mask rules were left to municipalities before Alberta instituted provincial regulations.

“We’re looking at our options, we haven’t made a final decision,” Kenney said Monday. “I think it’s much better if the province, as we try to get life back to normal, has a simple, easy to understand and consistent public health policy.

– With files from Dustin Cook

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