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Medical certificate required for mask exemption on Via Rail starting Nov. 9

Last Updated Oct 23, 2020 at 1:00 am EST

If you cannot wear a mask due to medical reasons, you’ll soon need to prove it to ride on Via Rail.

The company’s website says an official medical certificate along with a government-issued photo ID will be required starting Nov. 9.

The certificate must be on an official letterhead from a healthcare provider with their full name, licence number and phone number. It also has to specify that the person has a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask correctly.

Philippe Cannon, Director of Public Affairs for Via Rail points out that the nature of the specific medical condition does not need to be revealed on the certificate.

“The measure…is in line with recommendations from public health authorities and other government bodies,” says Cannon. Those who do not comply with the rules will not be allowed to board or stay on board Via Rail trains, he added.

Many on social media felt the new rule was a violation of privacy or even human rights. However the move is entirely legal.

“In fact it is the right thing to do because a lot of people are anti-maskers and they won’t do it on principle and anybody in that position can say ‘I have a medical disability’,” says Howard Levitt, employment, labour and disability lawyer. “You don’t have to accept that because the bottom line is safety trumps privacy every time.”

The city’s mask bylaw makes it mandatory to wear a mask or face covering in all indoor public spaces and common areas in apartments, condo buildings and shelters. The TTC has also made masks mandatory on all modes of transit and it is also required in a vehicle that is operated as part of a business or organization.

While there are exemptions in both the city and the province’s mask regulations for those who cannot tolerate masks due to medical reasons, they do not require proof and no such document is currently available from the city or province.

However, Levitt adds that Via Rail is well within its rights to ask for such proof to enforce the regulations.

“They can set their own rules as long as they comply with public health guidelines,” he says. “They’re not going to comply with [those] guidelines by letting people come in without masks into close quarters.”