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COVID-19 Mandatory Masks By-law

On July 13, 2020, St. Catharines City Council passed By-Law No. 2020-97, requiring that all visitors and staff in enclosed public spaces to wear a face mask or covering at all times.

By-law came into effect on July 17, 2020.

COVID-19 spreads readily in indoor spaces, especially where physical separation of two metres between individuals is not possible or difficult. With recovery efforts underway more people are sharing indoor spaces. With growing evidence that masks operate as a barrier preventing those with COVID-19, including asymptomatic individuals, from spreading it to others, ensuring mask use is widely adopted will help to slow the spread of the virus while ensuring re-opening efforts continue.

Please continue reading, or check out our Mandatory Masks By-Law FAQ for more information.

Please note: the Niagara Region has also passed a mandatory mask by-law that applies to the entirety of Niagara, with further stipulations and exemptions that must also be followed. Visit the Region's mask by-law page for more information.

Definition of a mask

Under the by-law any cloth (non-medical) mask, medical mask or other face covering such as a bandana or scarf may be used, provided it securely covers the nose, mouth and chin without gaps.

Subject areas and spaces

The by-law applies to all enclosed (indoor) public space open to the public, including establishments where a fee or membership is required for admission. Please note the requirement only applies to persons in spaces open to the public, staff in employees-only spaces, or those behind protective barriers such as plexiglass do not need to wear a mask. 

Enclosed public spaces, include, but are not limited to:

  • Any place of business where goods or services are offered for sale e.g. retail, personal and professional service businesses

  • Food-sales businesses including restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, convenience stores
  • Shopping malls and similar structures
  • Places of worship
  • Entertainment, recreation and cultural venues such as museums, galleries, bingo halls, banquets halls, community centres, cinemas, and concert venues
  • Indoor sports and recreational facilities such as gyms, arenas, yoga studios and clubhouses
  • Common areas of hotels, motels and other short-term accommodations including elevators, lobbies, rest rooms, laundry rooms, gyms and kitchens; this does not include common areas of residential apartment buildings and condominiums
  • Locations used as an open house, presentation centre or other real-estate facility
  • Areas of City facilities open to the public


There are certain individuals who are exempt from the requirements. Exemptions include:

  • Children under 10 years of age (the Niagara Region's mask by-law further limits this exemption to children under the age of five)
  • Persons with medical conditions which prevent them from wearing a mask, including breathing difficulties and cognitive difficulties
  • Individuals who are unable to apply or remove a mask without assistance
  • Persons with protections, including reasonable accommodations, in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code that would prevent them from wearing a mask
  • Persons assisting or accommodating another person with a hearing disability

Masks can be temporarily removed if the service provided requires they be removed. Exemptions include:

  • Receiving services
  • Actively engaging in athletic or fitness activity, including water-based activities
  • While actively engaged in delivering vocal artistic performances arranged for by the operator of the establishment
  • Participation in religious rights or ceremonies not compatible with the face being covered
  • Consuming food or drinks
  • Emergency or medical purposes

Certain enclosed public spaces are also exempt from the by-law. They are:

  • Day cares, child-care facilities, day camps for children, schools and post-secondary institutions
  • Private and public transportation (The St. Catharines Transit Commission has decided to voluntarily comply with the by-law, enacting mask requirements for City transit riders)
  • Hospitals, independent health facilities and offices of regulated health professionals
  • Buildings and services owned and/or operated by the Province of Ontario or Federal Government of Canada

Information for business / public space operators

Business owners will be required to develop a written policy prohibiting persons from entering the enclosed space, or remaining within it, unless that person is wearing a mask.

Additionally, business owners will be required to post clear and prominent signage at entry points that visitors and employees are required to wear a mask in accordance with the by-law.

The policy must be available for inspection by enforcement officers by request, and should outline not only the mask requirement but also the exemptions mentioned above. The policy must also require employees within areas accessible by the public to also wear masks and all employees must be trained in the requirements of the policy.

Businesses are also expected to have hand sanitizer at entrances / exits to the premises.

The policy must also outline exemptions for temporary removal of masks.

Resources for businesses / public space operators:

Businesses can download digital copies of printable signs for posting at entrances below, in addition to a mask policy they can complete and print.

St. Catharines Transit

While transportation is exempt from the by-law the St. Catharines Transit Commission has made the decision to voluntarily comply with the by-law. Transit is asking its riders, and those visiting its facilities, to wear a mask or face covering.

Proper Mask Use

Proper mask use infographic

Niagara Region Public Health provides the following guidance for effective and safe use of face coverings:

  • Clean your hands before putting a mask on and taking it off. Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds.
  • Make sure the mask fits. No gaps between the face covering and your face. It should cover your mouth and nose from below the eyes to around the chin.
  • Secure the mask with ties or ear loops so that it is comfortable and doesn't hinder breathing and vision
  • Keep your hands away from your face while wearing a face covering. If you do touch your face, clean your hands immediately.
  • Do not share your mask with others
  • Wear a mask as long as it is comfortable, and remove it when it becomes soiled, damp, damage or difficult to breathe through
  • Wash your cloth face covering in the laundry
  • Continue to stay two metres away from others
  • Clean surfaces that a dirty face covering touches
Copyright © 2014 The Corporation of the City of St. Catharines