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Police called to mask dispute at West Kelowna polling station

Mask dispute at the polls

There seems to be some mixed messages and confusion with how the mask mandate was enforced at advance polling stations over the weekend in the Central Okanagan.

Police had to be called to the polling station on Old Okanagan Highway at Grizzly Road in West Kelowna on Friday for a mask dispute.

The man involved, who wished to remain anonymous, says he was not wearing a mask due to a medical exemption.

"I walked into the building and was greeted by two Elections Canada employees and neither asked me to wear a mask. I proceeded to a polling station and the woman was friendly and didn't say anything. The supervisor then walked over and said he wouldn't let me vote without a mask."

"I clearly explained to him that I had a medical exemption and will be voting in person. He insisted I had to mail in a vote."

The voter says he wanted to vote in person because he believes it is more secure than mail.

Elections Canada, meanwhile, has been putting out mixed messages on how it is managing the mask mandate at polling stations.

"To maintain safe environments, we encourage electors to wear a mask, even in places where a province, territory or region does not require them. We will require electors to wear masks where they are required by the province, territory or region or by the landlord leasing the space to Elections Canada. Electors who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons will not be required to wear one, and they will not be asked for proof of medical exemption except for polling locations in Alberta schools, where proof of exemption is required by the school boards," Elections Canada says online.

"Masks will be provided to electors who do not bring their own. For those in a jurisdiction where masks are mandatory and who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, we encourage them to vote by mail," the statement continued.

That is the policy that was followed on Sunday afternoon at the polling station at West Kelowna Landmark cinemas. A Castanet reporter casting their personal ballot observed elections workers accept medical mask exemptions with little questioning.

On social media, Elections Canada appears to be taking a harder line on masks when compared to the organization's website.

"We will require electors to wear masks where they are required by the province, territory or region or by the landlord leasing the space to Elections Canada. Individuals who refuse to wear a mask where masks are required will be refused entry to the polling station," Elections Canada said on Twitter.

Castanet has reached out to Elections Canada for clarification on what the actual rules are.

The voter involved in the dispute at the Grizzly Road polling station claimed the responding police officer was also confused as to what the rules are.

"The police officer seemed to have the same interpretation of the Elections Canada rules as myself. The supervisor insisted both the police officer and I were both wrong and would not allow me to vote," the voter continued. "The whole ordeal took an hour to go through, a process which could have been done in five minutes."

The dispute was witnessed by BC Libertarian party leader Keith MacIntyre, who publicized the incident online.

Social media was filled over the weekend with posts suggesting polling station workers across the country had been subjected to abuse while trying to enforce the mask mandate, something likely made more difficult by Elections Canada's mixed messaging on the subject.

There is one more day of advance voting running 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday.



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