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Opinion: Burnaby Indigo in hot water after denying entry to child with autism

The boy had a medical exemption but was still denied access
The Indigo store at Metropolis at Metrotown is being criticized for denying entry to a child with autism because he wasn't wearing a mask.

Wearing masks is absolutely essential to fighting COVID-19.

That’s why the government has made them mandatory for indoor public settings. But that has given rise to some tricky situations and some decisions by businesses that are being criticized.

The latest in Burnaby happened at the Indigo store at Metropolis at Metrotown.

Tina Chiao took her 12-year-old son there on Nov. 22, but was denied entry because he wasn’t wearing a mask despite the fact the boy has a medical exemption for a neurodevelopmental disorder, as well as autism, epilepsy, a sensory processing disorder, and high levels of anxiety, according to a story by News 1130.

For the boy, wearing a mask just isn’t an option and now Chiao has filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Indigo has responded by saying the company offers online shopping options and that it complied with regulations.

It’s an interesting case. The whole issue of young people wearing masks has definitely flared up in regards to schools. I’ve lost count of the number of parents and students who have written to me saying they want kids to wear masks in more situations at schools – at least the ones 12 and older.

But if you have a medical exemption, then that really needs to be taken into consideration.

Chiao’s son is 12. It’s right on the cusp of the age requirement. Was it really necessary to deny him access, especially since he has a medical exemption?

This isn’t some freedom bro making up some phony excuse so he can thumb his nose at the government. It’s a child.

The following people are exempt from the order, according to the human rights commission: children under 12 years old, anyone who is unable to wear a mask because of a health condition or impairment (whether that health condition or impairment is physical, psychological, behavioural, cognitive or emotional), and anyone who is unable to put on or remove a mask without help from another person.

Seems pretty obvious to me.

“We need to ensure there is balance between the rights of people who cannot wear a mask on the basis of protected grounds in B.C.’s Human Rights Code (such as disability) and the public health risks, especially to people who are at risk of more severe illnesses,” writes Kasari Govender, BC’s Human Rights Commissioner.

I get that store staff are being put into difficult positions dealing with people not wearing masks.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of training.

It will be interesting to see how the tribunal rules on this case.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.