Ontario woman kicked out of bingo hall for not using mask to cover breathing hole in her neck
TORONTO -- An Ontario woman battling lung cancer, who breathes through a hole in her neck, was kicked out of her local bingo hall because her breathing hole wasn't covered with a mask, her son says.
Whitby, Ont. woman Elaine Arbeau doesn't go out much anymore, her son says, unless it's to play at a casino or bingo hall with her friends.
According to her son, the 67-year-old was excited to see her friends again when Delta Bingo in Pickering, Ont. reopened following the COVID-19 shutdown.
But things didn't go as planned when she arrived earlier this month. When she got inside, management asked her to leave.
"She was told to leave by management if she didn't cover up the hole on her neck," her son, Joe Gilbert, told CTV News Toronto on Sunday. "She explained that was impossible to do. That's how she breathes."
Gilbert said his mother was embarrassed and didn't want to create a scene so she voluntarily left. He says when she got to the parking lot she started crying.
"My mom was beside herself and floored," Gilbert said, adding that his mom felt humiliated by the situation.
Gilbert said when the manager saw Arbeau crying in the parking lot, she decided to allow her back in but at that point she refused.
"My mom left," Gilbert said. "She was too embarrassed."
Gilbert said his mom went home and did some research on the rules around mandatory masks and felt she was treated wrongly. She decided to go back to the bingo hall this Saturday to try and enter again but didn't make it past the front door before being stopped.
"They told her 'You can't come in here unless you cover the hole on your neck,'" Gilbert said.
Arbeau, who recorded the interaction with the Delta Bingo employee, was given the company's head office phone number and told to leave.
In the video, the employee tells Arbeau the bingo hall is private property and they can "mandate any rules that they want." She struggles to tell the employee that she believes she has a right to be there but is still denied entry.
Gilbert said her mom went home in tears and feels strongly that she is being discriminated against.
"What they did was wrong," Gilbert said. "The hole can’t be covered because that's how she breathes, she doesn't breathe through her mouth or nose."
"If you cover it, you might as well take away someone's life support."
Non-medical masks are mandatory in Durham Region within commercial establishments but there are some exceptions.
If a mask "inhibits a person's ability to breathe in any way" they are not required.
"My poor mom has no voice so I'm hoping by getting this out there many people will join me to give her one," Gilbert said. "This should never happen to anyone in my mom's position."
Speaking over the phone to CTV News Toronto on Sunday, Delta Bingo CEO Cam Johnston said he will take a "hard look" over the case but said people who can't wear masks shouldn't be visiting their establishment at this time.
"I'll make a judgement shortly," Johnston said. "But we would prefer that people who are unable to wear masks do not attend. I think it's best for them."
Johnston said he empathizes with Arbeau but said safety has to be his "number one priority at this time."
"We're trying to protect everyone but my first concern and first obligation is the health and safety of all our customers and staff."