Alberta government to try to prohibit COVID-19 mask mandates in schools, Smith says


The Alberta government is shifting to try to prohibit any COVID-19 mask mandates in faculties, Premier Danielle Smith mentioned Saturday morning.

In an announcement despatched to information media Saturday, Smith alleged that the psychological well being, improvement and schooling of scholars, from kindergarten to Grade 12, have suffered due to sporting masks in class.

“We should flip the web page on what has been an especially tough time for youngsters, together with their dad and mom and academics,” Smith mentioned.

On Thursday, Court of King’s Bench Justice Grant Dunlop dominated that the order to carry college mask mandates final February was “unreasonable,” as a result of it was based mostly on an interpretation of the province’s Public Health Act that gave politicians closing say on public well being orders.

On Saturday, the premier mentioned she has directed Justice Minister Tyler Shandro to look at whether or not an attraction of the choice could be acceptable.

An attraction is unlikely, although, mentioned Lorian Hardcastle, a University of Calgary assistant legislation professor with a joint appointment to the division of neighborhood well being sciences.

Appealing the choice would put the government again in courtroom and reopens the argument that lifting mask mandates infringes on constitution rights of immunocompromised youngsters, she defined. But there are additionally different mechanisms the government can use as a substitute to obtain Smith’s objective, specifically regulation.

The premier mentioned Saturday that she has instructed Shandro, Health Minister Jason Copping and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to alert her of any legislative or regulatory adjustments that may be required to “reaffirm or make clear our government’s full authority” on well being and schooling issues.

If the Alberta government chooses to push ahead, it should seemingly regulate the flexibility of faculties to implement mask mandates via the Education Act, Hardcastle mentioned.

“The choose was fairly clear that the government’s earlier apply of dictating to the chief medical officer of well being what goes into her orders will not be a authorized one, so I believe that they will not go that route,” she mentioned.

Lorian Hardcastle mentioned if the Alberta government chooses to push ahead on prohibiting mask mandates in faculties, it should seemingly do this via the Education Act. (Colin Hall/CBC)

The government may additionally do nothing, opting as a substitute to wait and see if faculties carry mask mandates again on their very own, she added.

Hardcastle mentioned Smith’s assertion is one other instance of politicizing COVID-19 and, in this case, stating one thing concerning the impact of masking on college students that will not be based mostly on truth.

“If she goes to make assertions which are unbalanced… she wants to current the proof that she’s counting on, in order that those that do have experience in this space can critique it and weigh in,” she mentioned.

“I simply do not suppose that proof is there.”

‘Dictatorial method’

COVID-19 remains to be current throughout Alberta.

The province’s seven-day PCR take a look at positivity fee was 18.36 per cent as of Oct. 24, provincial date reveals. There had been 1,118 individuals in hospital with the sickness, together with 28 sufferers in intensive care items.

Data additionally suggests, nevertheless, that COVID-19 is spreading extra in some areas than in others.

As of Oct. 24, the seven-day PCR take a look at positivity fee in the Alberta Health Services south zone was over 28 per cent, however solely about 15 per cent in the Edmonton zone.

Smith’s assertion suggests she is taking a extra “top-down, dictatorial method” to public well being, which might deny native entities to act in accordance to their respective state of affairs, Hardcastle mentioned.

“Public well being is massively broad and complicated and multidimensional, and everybody wants to have their very own acceptable guidelines and precautions in place,” Hardcastle mentioned.

“In some circumstances, an area entity is in a greater place to determine what’s acceptable than the provincial government passing a rule that applies to the entire province.”

Regardless, Alberta’s college boards should adhere to regardless of the government decides, mentioned Cathy Hogg, president of the Public School Boards Association of Alberta.

“We are ruled by Alberta laws and our minister of schooling, so we now have to do as we’re instructed, whether or not we agree or do not agree,” mentioned Hogg, who can be the chair of Prairie Rose Public Schools, which serves 23 faculties in southeastern Alberta.

“Our children are a precedence and that’ll all the time be our precedence, so we’ll simply do our greatest.”

In Prairie Rose faculties, there are different measures in place to assist forestall the potential unfold of COVID-19, mentioned division superintendent Reagen Weeks. She listed enhanced cleansing protocols and air filtration gadgets — put in in some lecture rooms — as examples.

Parents, nevertheless, can insist that their youngsters put on masks in class, and college employees will do what they can to guarantee a respectful setting, Hogg mentioned.


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