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‘He just shrugged it off:’ Student wants Montreal transit to enforce mandatory mask rule

Last Updated Sep 9, 2020 at 7:10 pm EDT

MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – A Montreal high-school student says she felt “uncomfortable and not safe” in a city bus surrounded by people not wearing masks – and the driver did nothing about it.

While heading home from school on Tuesday afternoon, grade 11 student Jordyn Ilacqua estimates half of the 30 transit users were not wearing masks. Many of them were students from her school.

When Ilacqua alerted the bus driver, she says he did nothing. Face coverings are mandatory across Montreal’s bus and metro network.

“He just shrugged it off and pretended like he didn’t care,” said Ilacqua, who suffers from asthma. “So I was like OK, and I just got off the bus.

“Going to school every day is scary and having to go on the bus packed full of people and none of them are wearing a mask. It’s just not fair to me.”

The incident took place on the 109 bus in Lasalle, Que., a borough of Montreal. Ilacqua says she and her friend initially asked a few riders to put their masks on. They complied.

But a large group of male students then entered the bus with their faces uncovered.

“They didn’t have their mask on. They had it in their hand,” said Ilacqua. “And they were yelling, not following the rules. And it was frustrating because my friend and I felt very uncomfortable and not safe at all. And we were willing to walk home because of how uncomfortable we were.”

Ilacqua says getting a lift to school simply isn’t possible, but that she is willing to use another bus route if the no-mask trend continues on her usual one.

“I’d rather take the longer way home then take the shortcut and not be safe,” she said.

Grade 11 student Jordyn Ilacqua says she’s seen a group of students from her school get on an STM bus without a mask and…

Posted by CityNews Montreal on Wednesday, September 9, 2020

With 120 schools in Quebec seeing at least one possible case of COVID-19, many people are worried about outbreaks as the numbers rise in the city.

Several comments on social media echoed Ilacqua’s experience.

“My kids go to school in Laval. A lot of the kids are on the bus without a mask,” wrote Lauriginale Modugno on Facebook.

Added Georgia Kafkas: “Every day I see people without a mask! Like especially on a bus. I don’t see why the bus driver can’t just not allow the people on the bus. It’s for everyone’s safety.”

Fines are currently not being issued for transit users breaking the rules. Police say they can only intervene at the request of the Societe de Transport de Montreal (STM), or the bus drivers themselves.

“The STM, they are responsible to keep their passengers safe,” said Shannon Illacqua, Jordyn’s mother. “I understand their salaries don’t pay to be police. But I think it’s their duty to make sure their passengers are safe.”

The city’s public transit authority estimates 99 per cent of bus users and 98 per cent of metro users wear face coverings.

“With 68 metro stations, hundreds of entrance gates and more than 1,200 buses in rush hour traffic, our teams cannot prohibit access to facilities or vehicles, but make sure to make customers aware of the importance of respecting this measure,” the STM told CityNews.

“Audio messages are played in the metro and pre-recorded messages can also be played on demand on the bus, if the driver notices that customers do not comply with the measure.”