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Wearing a mask

Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law

On Wednesday, August 26, Ottawa City Council amended the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law to further reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community, particularly as schools, businesses and services continue to reopen.

The amendments include:

  • allowing the City to establish mandatory mask zones, if needed
  • making masks mandatory in an apartment or condo building’s common areas

The by-law will also be updated to reflect that masks must be worn while in vehicles for hire, such as taxis, limousines and private transportation company vehicles. This amendment aligns Ottawa’s by-law with Ottawa Public Health’s July 6 letter of instruction to businesses.


The by-law is extended until 12:01 am on August 26, 2021 and may be extended further based on the status of the pandemic. It will be reviewed every two months or so.

The by-law still exempts young children and anyone with a disability or a medical condition, including breathing and cognitive difficulties that prevent them from wearing a mask safely. Anyone who is unable to put on or remove a mask without assistance is also exempt from the by-law. Proof of an exemption is still not required.

Mandatory mask zones

Over the spring and summer, large gatherings have taken place around the city where residents were not wearing masks or maintaining social distance of 2 metres. These types of gatherings are high-risk for the transmission of the virus.

If large gatherings of this kind continue in a specific area, the City may establish a mandatory mask zone. Residents and visitors to the area would be required to wear masks while in any indoor or outdoor public space. The rule may apply only on specific days of the week during specific hours of the day.

Businesses are still in the process of reopening, and this includes patios. The ability to establish mandatory mask zones, if necessary, will help the City create a safe environment for residents to socialize and enjoy the outdoors while the weather is still on our side.

To determine whether a mandatory mask zone should be put in place, the City will consider:

      • Confirmation from the Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health that it is a necessary public health and safety measure;
      • The number of incidents of high-risk behaviour such as not wearing masks and not physically distancing while in a crowded area;
      • The size and dimensions of the area of the city in question, and whether the public is able to maintain physical distance.

If a mandatory mask zone is established, the City will notify residents and businesses 24-48 hours ahead of time.

Notification will be provided through updates to the City and OPH website, social media, posting directly on the designated property, or direct mail to Business Improvement Areas or property owners.

Mandatory mask zones are not intended as a long-term measure. They would expire within 60 days or sooner, depending on the circumstances.

Mandatory masking in apartment and condo buildings

Residents and building operators have been reporting that masking has not been widely adopted in common areas of apartment buildings and condos. This puts residents at risk, particularly those who are among the most vulnerable of the city’s population.

Apartment and condo building operators are now required to post prominent and clearly visible signage with specific messaging about the by-law at every entrance to the building. By-law posters with the prescribed messaging are available for printing (a bilingual version is also available). Building operators must also ensure alcohol-based hand rub is available at all entrances.


Ottawa City Council first passed a temporary by-law in July, requiring residents to wear masks in all enclosed public spaces, such as indoor public areas of recreational facilities, shopping malls, retail stores, restaurants and cafés. The mask requirement also applies to public transit property, including buses, trains, stations, shelters and platforms.

Whenever you enter the public areas of a building, you should wear a mask. Wearing a mask should always be combined with other protective measures such as physical distancing, hand washing, not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and staying home if you are sick.

When other people wear a mask, they are helping to protect you.

Not everyone can wear a mask. Please be kind and respectful to people who are unable to wear a mask. We are in this together, and we will get through this pandemic by caring for our neighbours and looking out for each other.

For more details and resources on mandatory face masks:

FAQ for residents

Why is a mandatory mask by-law necessary?

Scientific evidence shows that wearing masks helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Since some people who are infected with COVID-19 may not know they have the virus, wearing a mask or face covering protects them from spreading the virus to you and to the people around you. Your mask protects them.

For more information about the public health benefits of wearing masks, where to find them, and instructions on their use, visit Ottawa Public Health.

Where am I required to wear masks?

You are required to wear a mask when in an indoor public setting, including:

  • Public transit (buses, trains, platforms, stations and shelters)
  • Common areas of apartment and condo buildings, such as elevators and lobbies
  • Vehicles for hire, such as taxis, limousines and private transportation company vehicles
  • Restaurants, cafés, cafeterias, banquet halls
  • Retail establishments and shopping malls
  • Places of worship
  • Libraries, museums, art galleries, recreational facilities, bingo halls, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, special event venues, convention centres, or other similar entertainment, cultural, or leisure facilities
  • Sports facilities, sports clubs, gyms, yoga studios, dance studios, and stadiums
  • Hotels, motels, or short-term rental premises
  • Hospitals and independent health facilities
  • Temporary facilities, such as construction trailers and temporary sales offices
  • Municipal facilities, including City Hall, community centres, cultural, arts or leisure centres, recreational or sporting facilities, parks buildings, client service centres or indoor parking facilities.

Where is a face mask NOT required?

The by-law does not apply to schools, childcare centres, day camps or the offices of professionals such as lawyers and accountants where clients visit areas not open to the general public.

Who is NOT required to wear a mask under this by-law?

The by-law exempts young children and those who are unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability that prevents them from safely wearing a mask. People who are unable to put on or remove their mask without the assistance of another person are also not required to wear a mask.

The by-law allows people to temporarily remove their mask for medical purposes, in order to eat, drink, swim, or receive services that require the removal of their mask.

Full details on who is exempt are available in the by-law.

How will the face covering by-law be enforced?

The City is taking an education-first approach to the by-law, asking people to comply and educating residents on how masks help us to protect one another.

Calling By-law and Regulatory Services should be a last resort.

When a warning is not deemed sufficient or for repeat offenders, enforcement of the by-law can include penalties through ticketing.

Do I have to show proof that I am exempt from the by-law?

No proof is required to show you are exempt from wearing a mask before entering an enclosed public space.

How do I report someone for not wearing a face covering?

Sometimes, what looks like a violation of the by-law is just a misunderstanding about what the by-law is asking us all to do. If anyone appears to be willfully contravening the by-law, residents should discuss the violation with the business operator first. After this, if residents wish to report that another resident or a local business is not in compliance with the By-law, they can do so by calling 3-1-1.

How long will this by-law be in effect?

The temporary by-law will be in effect until January 2021 and may be extended by City Council, based on the evolution of the pandemic.

Do I still need to stay 2 metres away from others if I am wearing a face mask?

Yes. Wearing a mask is not an alternative to physical distancing. Every effort should be made to keep a 2-metre distance even when wearing a mask.

FAQ for condo and apartment building operators

What are my obligations as a condo or apartment building under the by-law?

Condo and apartment building operators are required to post signs with specific messaging about the by-law at all public entrances to the building. By-law posters with the prescribed messaging are available for printing (a bilingual version is also available).

Operators must also provide alcohol-based hand rub at all public entrances.

If a residents says they are exempt from the by-law, they do not need to show proof.

If a resident refuses to wear a mask and is not exempt from the by-law, a building operator, resident or guest may report the issue to the City for follow-up.

FAQ for businesses

What are my obligations as a business operator under the by-law?

Operators of enclosed public spaces are required to post signs with specific messaging about the by-law at all public entrances to the building. By-law posters with the prescribed messaging are available for printing (a bilingual version is also available).

Operators must also provide alcohol-based hand rub at all public entrances.

If a client arrives without a mask, operators must notify them of the mask requirement as soon as possible after they enter the premises. This can occur at the door, or at the first client interaction.

If the client says they are exempt from the bylaw, they do not need to show proof and no further action is needed on behalf of the operator.

If a patron refuses to wear a mask and is not exempt from the by-law, a business operator may report the issue to the City for follow-up. This applies to patrons of businesses, and business employees as well.

Do employees need to wear a face covering in staff-only areas?

While in staff-only areas, by Provincial order, staff are required to wear masks if they are unable to maintain a 2-metre distance.

In consultation with Ottawa Public Health, the City of Ottawa has developed a Business Reopening Toolkit to provide guidance and resources for to businesses. Additional workplace guidance and resources are also available.