People wear face masks as they wait to cross a street in Montreal, Saturday, March 27, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

People wear face masks as they wait to cross a street in Montreal, Saturday, March 27, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

LETTER: Business owner says ‘thanks’ to the anti-maskers harassing his staff

‘Staff and myself have been yelled at, threatened, recorded with phones and physically assaulted’

I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to the anti-maskers who have attended our business and on numerous occasions share their opinion with my staff, customers and anyone else that will listen. As you are very passionate and boisterous in relaying your message, and not receptive of any sort of critique, I thought I would try this platform.

I believe I speak for most businesses when I say that none of us were over the moon when this pandemic hit. I did not rub my hands in glee when it was recommended to wear masks. I did not jump for joy when I realized that I had to police my place of business to ensure that both the public and I were following all the COVID-19 protocols put in place by Dr. Bonnie Henry and enforced by WorkSafeBC. By the way, since last March, I have been visited by WorkSafe BC numerous times to ensure that I am following COVID protocols.

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My staff are nervous and on edge. They are fearful of possibly catching this virus and becoming sick. Worse, they are fearful of missing work as they have bills to pay and mouths to feed. The vast majority of my customers also want a COVID-free experience. My company has posted numerous signs in clear view about social distancing, mandatory masks, warnings about touching surfaces, etc. I did not sit at my computer one day and think to myself, ‘It sure would be fun for a good laugh to tell everyone to stand six feet apart,’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be a hoot if I could force my customers and staff to cover their nose and mouth in order to gain access?’

My staff are the front line. These changes come at a price and rest assured COVID has cost our industry revenue.

When anti-maskers walk through the door, staff are instructed to give them a gentle reminder to please put on a mask. If the patron refuses then they are asked to leave. If the customer has a doctor’s note or health issue then the staff ask the person to stay outside and the staff member volunteers to bring the recycling into the business, sort the product and return with the money. In essence, respecting the individuals rights and offering to help out. This approach helps protect other members of public that are using my facility while offering a level of protection to everybody involved. Simple right? Not even close.

Both staff and myself have been yelled at, threatened, recorded with phones and in one case physically assaulted. Customers have been accosted in the parking lot, forced to listen to opinions they do not share. The RCMP have attend numerous times as things spiral out of control. All because a very small group of citizens refuse to wear a mask and want to make it known that their human rights are being infringed upon.

It is not my place to argue whether your rights are being trampled upon. Take that up with WorkSafe BC or Dr. Henry. What about the rights of my staff and customers? What about my rights as a business owner?

I have a responsibility to my staff to keep them safe and follow the rules. I have a responsibility to my customers to offer them as safe an experience as possible when they attend my place of business. Staff members here work extremely hard and do not deserve to be yelled at for following the rules.

To those anti-maskers that take the time to read this, please, please recognize that we are all just trying to do our job, be safe and follow the rules. Please take a deep breath and think before you react. With the distribution of the vaccine, we are nearing the end (as the anti-vaxxers are now rolling their eyes). Please think before you decide to target us and please recognize that we respect your opinion, so maybe respect us. We are just trying to get through this, much the same way that you are.

Lawrence Engelsman

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