Alberta students board a school bus, as they return to school today for the first time since their holiday break was extended due to surging COVID-19 cases, near Cremona, Alta., Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. After nearly two years of going to school with their faces covered, students in Alberta now have the option to ditch their masks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Court denies challenge of government decision to lift mask mandate in Alberta schools

Court denies challenge of government decision to lift mask mandate in Alberta schools

Court denies challenge of government decision to lift mask mandate in schools

EDMONTON — Alberta’s largest labour organization has failed in its challenge of the government’s decision to lift a mask mandate in classrooms.

The Alberta Federation of Labour, on behalf of five parents with immunocompromised children, had filed a request on Sunday for an emergency injunction to keep masks in place.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Grant Dunlop, saying there was “no evidence of irreparable harm,” dismissed the application Monday. Lawyers representing the union and the parents said they were planning to submit another request.

Students in schools were no longer required to wear face coverings starting Monday following an announcement by Premier Jason Kenney last week that the province would lift all pandemic restrictions in the coming weeks if COVID-19 indicators remain stable or trend downward. Children 12 and under also don’t have to wear masks in any setting.

The union was also challenging Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange’s announcement that it’s now illegal for school boards to bring in their own rules to override the province.

“Removing universal masking in schools forces many children to choose between their education and their health — and in some cases, their life,” Sharon Roberts, a lawyer representing the the union, said in a statement.

“We are seeking an immediate pause of the decision to remove masking, as well as the incorrect assertion that school boards cannot continue their own mandates,” added co-counsel Orlagh O’Kelly.

Premier Jason Kenney took to Twitter to say he was content with the judge’s decision.

“Pleased to report that the Court of QB just threw-out the ridiculous application by the NDP Labour Federation to force kids to wear masks indefinitely,” his tweet said.

“Common sense is prevailing.”

While some have said they welcome the step toward normalcy after almost two years of kids going to school with their faces covered, others said they are anxious and worried over what has become a divisive, political issue in the pandemic.

Teachers will have the option of not wearing a mask if a provincewide mandate lifts as planned March 1. That’s when remaining school requirements, such as students having to remain with their cohort group, are also to end.