toronto mask fight

Man smashes up Toronto convenience store after being asked to wear a mask

The owner of a popular Toronto convenience store is out thousands of dollars and worried for the safety of his community after being attacked over the mere suggestion of wearing a mask indoors.

It was a regular Tuesday afternoon (save for the whole pandemic thing) when a random man entered Mr. Smoke and Variety, a convenience store and post office at 1116 Wilson Ave., near Keele.

After hanging around the store for a while, the man approached the front counter, at which point he was asked to cover his face in compliance with the city's mandatory indoor mask bylaw.

"We have a no face covering, no service policy," said the store's owner to blogTO by phone, noting that his team does make accommodations for certain customers if they are eligible to be exempt.

Perhaps knowing this, the man showed the store's owner something on his phone and claimed that he had a medical exemption for PTSD.

"I was like, 'I understand — you don't have to wear a mask, you just have to cover your face so that other customers feel comfortable,'" said the owner, who suggested that the man pull his shirt over his mouth and nose while in the store.

"There was literally a ten second moment after that when he just stared at me," said the business owner to blogTO. "And then he snapped. He didn't cuss at me, he didn't say anything. He just went from zero to 60."

Fortunately for police, who are still looking for the suspect, security cameras were rolling the entire time. A friend of the store's owner posted video footage from the incident to Instagram.

The video shows what the store owner describes as "the moment of eruption," when the customer snaps and starts smashing things. 

In the clip, we see him pulling apart the front desk display, throw merchandise to the ground and shove various things — including the cash register — at the store's owner.

Mr. Smoke and Variety lost about a day and a half's worth of income, the owner estimates, but it would have been much worse had he not managed to catch the expensive register before it hit the floor.

"I've had people threaten to kill me, threaten to shoot me, threaten to beat me up, all that stuff," said the convenience store owner. "I was prepared for it mentally. It's always just talk. But for me, this was a first."

Police were called and responded fast, according to the owner, but were unable to catch up with the person who'd done the damage. His fear is that the guy could do something similarly-unhinged to another member of the community.

"I've dealt with people in distress here, so many people," he said to blogTO.  "I usually just talk to them. I've deescalated situations... but this was different."

This is not the first mask policy-related freak out to make headlines in Toronto, though reports of such behaviour have tapered off in recent months amid a second wave of COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on Toronto with no clear end in sight, the city is moving to extend a number of municipal bylaws until the summer in an effort to protect public health.

The City of Toronto's current mandatory indoor mask bylaw is set to expire at the end of February, though Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa is recommending that it (and other pandemic safety bylaws) be extended until at least June.

Lead photo by

DJ Delirious


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