Toronto, Canada Requires Masks Within Enclosed Public Spaces

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health, safety and well-being of its residents within enclosed public spaces, on June 30, 2020, the City of Toronto passed By-Law 541-2020 (“By-Law”).  The By-Law provides that as of July 7, 2020, members of the public may not enter or remain within an establishment that is open to the public unless they are wearing a mask or face covering.

Defined Terms

The By-Law defines three terms that are central to its interpretation:

Establishment means:

  • Premises or any portion thereof that are used as a place of business for the sale or offering for sale of goods or services, and includes a mall or similar structure which contains multiple places of business;
  • Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, or other places of worship;
  • Community centres including indoor recreational facilities;
  • Libraries, art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos and other similar facilities;
  • Community service agencies providing services to the public;
  • Banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums, and other event spaces;
  • Premises utilized as an open house, presentation centre, or other facility for real estate purposes;
  • Common areas of hotels, motels and other short-term rentals, such as lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms or other common use facilities; and
  • Concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos, and other entertainment facilities.

Mask or Face Covering means a mask, balaclava, bandana, scarf, cloth or other similar item that covers the nose, mouth and chin without gapping.

Operator means a person or organization that is responsible for or otherwise has control over the operation of an Establishment.

The By-Law provides that the following premises are not an Establishment for its purposes even if they would otherwise fall within the definition of an Establishment:

  • Schools, post-secondary institutions, and child care facilities;
  • Private transportation and public transportation; and
  • Hospitals, independent health facilities and offices of regulated health professionals.


The By-Law requires Establishments that are open to the public to adopt a policy that ensures that no member of the public may enter or remain within any enclosed space within the establishment unless they are wearing a Mask or Face Covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin.

The Operator of the Establishment must provide a copy of the policy for inspection to any person authorized to enforce this By-law, upon request.

The policy must:

  • Exempt the following individuals from the requirement to wear a Mask or Face Covering, and it must not require them to provide proof of any of the exemptions:
    • Children under two years of age;
    • Persons with an underlying medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a Mask or Face Covering;
    • Persons unable to place or remove a Mask or Face Covering without assistance;
    • Employees and agents of the person responsible for the establishment within an area designated for them and not for public access, or within or behind a physical barrier; and
    • Persons who are reasonably accommodated by not wearing a Mask or Face Covering in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  • Permit the Mask or Face Covering to be temporarily removed where necessary to receive services, or while actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity.
  • Require employees to wear a Mask or Face Covering when working in the enclosed public space, subject to the exemptions listed above.

Visible Signage

The By-Law requires the Operator to conspicuously post at all entrances to the Establishment clearly visible signage containing the following text:



The Operator must ensure that all persons working at the Establishment are trained in the requirements of the policy and the By-law.


Every person who contravenes any provision of the By-law will be guilty of an offence, and on conviction liable to a fine as provided for in the Provincial Offences Act.

Bottom Line for Employers

Employers located in the City of Toronto that are open to the public and fall within the By-Law’s definition of “Establishment” are encouraged to immediately adopt the required policy, post the required signage, provide employee training about the requirements of the policy, and maintain careful records of such training.    

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.