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Edmonton Public Schools Superintendent Darrel Robertson shared his reasoned views on masking, a divisive topic for several years now. What does it take to change human behaviour?


According to Robertson the EPSB’s actions were guided by the plan set out by Alberta Health Services for respiratory illnesses. These measures include a recommendation that students and staff not attend school if they are ill. This particular measure has become the new normal.

Robertson made clear that masks are not required but students and staff can decide based on their own risk whether they want to wear one.

“I’m all in on… considering things like asking folks more frequently to consider putting on a mask but respecting their decisions. Right now as a society, there’s a difference between being told to do something and being asked to do something.”


Robertson has the pulse of Albertans and most Canadians. We don’t like being told what to do. Even if it’s good for us or for the good of our community. Mandatory use of seat belts attempted to save people from themselves. How effective are seat belts in reducing the risk of being killed or seriously injured in an accident? I’ll give the answer below.

Alberta’s new Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Mark Joffe, knows that masks are a significant part of preventing the spread. He stops short of a mask mandate. “Albertans should be supported regardless of their decision to mask or not.”

Could what we know as “cold and flu season” become the new “mask season”? I like Jen Gerson’s humourous take on kids and sickness.

Seat belts and masks are not the same, but they are. How many people would choose not to wear a seat belt if they weren’t mandatory? How many Canadians would be dead or severely injured if not for mandatory seat belts?

Saving Lives

As with seatbelts, the evidence that masking in indoor areas would probably at least help reduce the spread of respiratory illness is perfectly sound.

Transport Canada reports that while 93% of Canadians buckle up, the 7% who don’t account for almost 40% of fatalities in vehicle collisions. Seatbelts save about 1,000 lives a year in Canada.

Seatbelts reduce the risk of death or injury by 50%. But still 7% break the law by not wearing one and suffer the majority of deaths and injuries. What does it take for people to do what is good for them? A threat of dying?

It seems that even the threat of death is not a motivator.

Dr Edward Miller is the dean of the medical school and CEO of the hospital at Johns Hopkins University. He observed, “If you look at people after coronary-artery bypass grafting two years later, 90% of them have not changed their lifestyle. And that’s been studied over and over and over again. Even though they know they have a very bad disease and they know they should change their lifestyle, for whatever reason, they can’t.”


People do not change because of fear, facts, or force.

It’s easy to see why people decline wearing masks for their own sake or the sake of others. The behaviour is not about disrespect or being careless. It’s a change in behaviour. Change to our comfort is hard if not bordering on the impossible.

What can lead to change is to reframe, relate, and repeat.

Reframe a new way of seeing. This is what the message of Jesus is all about. We see ourselves as God sees us: unable to change our nature and in need of a Saviour.

Relate to God and each other through Jesus with humility, a change of mind and behaviour, forgiving and receiving forgiveness. Relating through unconditional love.

Repeat as required.


Robertson expressed his hope for reasonable behaviour. “There’s an opportunity (reframe) for us to come together as a community (relate) to get out of conflict mode and into how can we work together to support each other and keep each other safe (repeat).”

For the near future I plan to wear a mask indoors in crowded, highly populated areas. Jocelyn’s 91-year-old Mum is living with us and it behooves us to have her best interest at heart.

Never have and never will judge those who don’t wear a mask.

What do you think? Join the conversation and post a comment below. Thank you.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

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