WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government is making masks mandatory in school for students in Grades 4 to 12, when they return to class in the fall.

Premier Brian Pallister made the announcement in a news conference Wednesday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and having listened to the input of literally thousands and thousands of Manitobans, we will be requiring mandatory use of masks in schools for Grades 4 to 12, where physical distancing two metres apart is not possible,” said Pallister.

The premier said staff must also wear face coverings.

The government stopped short of mandating masks in the back to school plan it released last week, but reversed the decision.

“What we heard from administrators, school leaders, parents, teachers as well, is that it would be even more straight forward to simply say ‘it’s required,’ said Pallister.

The move comes after Manitoba parents participated in a telephone town hall Tuesday night to voice their concerns about the province’s plan for students and staff in the fall.

Pallister said schools will have to make some accommodations, for example, if students have breathing difficulties or asthma.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, recognized it may be a difficult adjustment for kids.

“We’ll be working and seeing if there are ways where we can accommodate, say ‘mask breaks’ for kids wearing masks all day,” he said.


The province is encouraging students to bring their own masks to school, but will also hand them out to kids who need them.

“The message will be for students to provide their own non-medical mask when possible,” said Roussin. “But, they’ll be provided for those who cannot.”

Pallister said Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen will have more details about how much this will cost the province.


Roussin said masks aren’t required for children in Grade 3 and under because the risk of transmission among younger children is lower.

He also said getting small kids to wear masks isn’t practical.

“To mandate mask wearing in a five or six-year-old and trying to enforce that is going to be a challenge,” Roussin said.

Roussin added that the province will try to do more to educate both children and adults about how to wear masks.

He said he has seen multiple examples of people using them incorrectly.

“We see people with their nose out, or their chin,” said Roussin. “For this to work, we need to use masks properly.”