ttc mask protest

The TTC hasn't issued any fines to people who refuse to wear face masks

It's been exactly one week since Toronto's public transit system implemented a policy requiring all passengers to wear non-medical masks or face coverings in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Some 84 per cent of customers were already wearing masks as of Monday, according to TTC spokesperson Stuart Green, and compliance is only expected to go up now that the City of Toronto's own mandatory mask bylaw is in effect.

And yet, Toronto residents continue to complain of defiant riders who refuse to mask up — and of nothing being done to penalize them for violating the rules.

It's important to note that many people are legitimately exempt from the mandatory face covering bylaw for reasons related to age, health and human rights. Children under two, for example, do not have to wear masks, nor do riders who are unable to put on or remove face coverings without assistance.

Anyone with an underlying medical condition which inhibits their ability to wear a mask is also exempt from the rule and can even obtain a mask exemption card or button from the TTC to identify themselves.

The transit agency has stated from the get go that, while masks are mandatory, TTC drivers will not be enforcing mask usage, and that no customer would be denied entry for failing to wear one.

Still, under TTC By-law No. 1, those in violation of the policy can be fined $235.

In theory.

When asked this week, after a group of "anti-maskers" defiantly stormed the subway system without any face coverings, how many fines had been issued in relation to mask usage so far, Green said simply: "None."

"We are not strictly enforcing at this time, opting instead for education," said the TTC spokesperson on Wednesday, pointing to high early compliance rates.

"Torontonians overwhelmingly want to do the right thing for their fellow citizens. And they are proving that on the TTC."

True as this may be for the majority of Toronto residents, troublesome behaviour has been observed among outliers like those mentioned above, who reject the assertions of leading public health professionals that face masks can help protect communities against the spread of COVID-19 in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

Regular TTC riders who've long rallied against steep fare evasion fines have been coming at the transit agency in recent days to ask why enforcement officers are so heavy handed when it comes to protecting $3.25 cash fares, but seemingly cool with blatant disregard for public health and safety.

"Anti-mask wearing zealots flout TTC bylaws and the TTC acts like it's never heard of enforcement before," commented one Twitter user. "'We've tried nothing - what more can we do!?' asks the same group that has no problem chasing people down for evading a $3 fare."

The TTC maintains that it "can't prevent customers from riding the system if they are paying a fare and state they have a medical condition preventing them from wearing a mask," but that it can still issue $425 tickets for fare evasion because "there are no exemptions from purposely evading paying your fare."

"Hilarious that the TTC is relying on 'education [...] rather than enforcement to ensure riders know about the new rule' re:mask wearing," commented one person on the agency's rationale. "A life saving, simple act, yet will enforce the fck out of fare evasion to the tune of $425. Seems legit."

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