Guest contribution from Jonathan Denis, former minister of justice and solicitor general of Alberta.
COVID-19 is a very divisive subject, and the laws and regulations around it can be confusing as they are both complex and often changing. Our office (Guardian Law Group LLP) has been receiving increasing inquiries about the restrictions reintroduced by the Government of Alberta.
In response to rising daily infection rates – the so-called “fourth wave” – Premier Jason Kenney announced the new restrictions are as follows:
- Masks – Effective September 4, 2021, masks are mandatory for all indoor public spaces and workplaces until further notice. Schools are not required to impose forced-masking, but school boards will continue to set their own COVID-19 management policies.
There are further requirements and exceptions to the province-wide forced-masking regulations:
- Children under two-years of age are exempt;
- Individuals who have a medical exemption from masks are required to obtain a medical exemption letter from a doctor, nurse practitioner, or psychologist. This medical exemption letter may be presented when in a public setting if requested by law enforcement, or in Court if a ticket is issued. A non-exhaustive list of medical conditions for which mask exemptions are granted include sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, cognitive impairment, mental illness, facial trauma, recent oral surgery, allergic distractions, or respiratory distress (I.e. asthma).
- Human rights legislation adds a further layer of complexity. Employers are not permitted to ask an applicant or an employee about current or past medical conditions. Therefore, once a medical mask exemption is presented by an employee from a medical professional, an employer is well advised to accept the exemption at face value without further inquiry.
- Early “Last call” – Also on the same date, restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, night clubs, and other licensed establishments are required to end alcohol service at 10 pm MST.
- Voluntary recommendations –
- Gatherings for unvaccinated people: The province is recommending (but not yet requiring) that unvaccinated Albertans limit their indoor social gatherings to “close contacts” of only two cohort families to a maximum of 10 people.
- In-person work: The province is also recommending that plans for in-person return to work be paused and that employers revert to work-from-home where possible.
There is no legal requirement for mandatory vaccination. Vaccination info can be found at ahs.ca/vaccine.
The province is also providing incentives for a $1 million draw for those who have two shots which will close on September 23, 2021. You can enter this draw at alberta.ca/lotterty. There is also a lottery to win an outdoor adventure which can be entered at alberta.ca/outdoor-adventure-vaccine-lottery.aspx. Lastly, the province is now offering a $100.00 payment to persons who receive a first or second dose between September 3 and October 14, 2021.
Disclaimer: This column is for information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. We recommend that you follow all laws and regulations. If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities, please consult a private lawyer.
Jonathan Denis, Q.C. is a partner at Guardian Law Group LLP in Calgary. He previously served as a two-term MLA and in five cabinet roles, most notably as Alberta’s 23rd Minister of Justice, Solicitor General, and Attorney General. He has made the choice to be vaccinated twice.