Three anti-maskers entered a Kelowna café on Saturday looking for a fight. That is what the owner of Bean Scene North believes.
Soon after officials announced the new provincial health order mandating masks in retail spaces and other publically accessible spaces last Thursday, local businesses began facing problems with those who choose to violate the directives.
The maskless men walked into Bean Scene North on what owner Jennifer West described as a slow Saturday afternoon, wielding ready-to-record phones and a laminated copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
West said the three, one of whom was a regular customer, came in “acting” like they were going to order something, but it soon became apparent they were looking for an argument. Holding her infant child, West emerged from the backroom to help out her staff who were dealing with the men out front.
When asked to put on masks — and even offered temporary ones — West said the men refused, saying they’re “not mask wearers,” and pointing to the copy of the Charter they’d brought along with them, citing violations of their rights. West’s husband then told the men they had to leave, at which point they became belligerent and began shouting.
“They were being very, very aggressive,” she said, adding that bringing out her baby only caused the men to yell even more.
They raised their phones and began recording, telling staff it was against their rights to be kicked out of what they referred to as “public space.”
“This isn’t public space; this is my private business,” West said, adding the men stayed for around five minutes before eventually leaving.
West’s husband called the police, who attempted to find the men in the area after they left, but came up unsuccessful.
Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said businesses have the responsibility due to the recent public health order to ask their patrons to wear face coverings or non-medical masks while on-premises and to refuse service for non-compliance. She also noted individuals have the right not to attend businesses if they decide not to wear a mask.
“We highly encourage everyone to respect provincial health orders for their safety and the safety of others,” Noseworthy said. “The RCMP’s focus remains on educating and encouraging members of the public who may not be following the safety measures set out by public health authorities. Enforcement is typically seen as a last resort, but one that can be used if the circumstances warrant.”
While the incident is over and done with, West knows the public health order is not. She said she possibly could have handled things better, but should there be a next time, she will continue to stand up for her staff.
“This is my business and it’s my responsibility,” she said.
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