A lookback: How we covered the Covid-19  pandemic and its effect on Filipino-Canadian workers

Canada

Four heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic

All four frontline workers died in April 2020

Opinion
Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas

Editor, Philippine Canadian news.Com (PCN.Com)

As we begin a new year full of hope that the pandemic will eventually end, we look back at the year that has just passed and how the pandemic affected the lives of our kababayans.

We look back with sadness at the loss of lives of frontliners, four of whom died in April 2020. We also followed the plight other workers considered ‘essential’, especially in the food processing industry and the dangers they faced and continues to face.

Warlito Valdez
Warlito Valdez was the first Filipino health care worker to die in Canada in April 2019.

Warlito Valdez, the 47-year old father and care home worker in Richmond, B.C. was the first recorded Covid-19 death among Filipinos. Valdez died on April 5, 2020, just 11 days of his 14-day self quarantine in his home.

Valdez’s death was followed by Ronald V. David on April 9. A cleaner at the Brampton Civic Hospital in Ontario, his death was the first known Ontario health-care worker to die of Covid-19.

On April 15, Christine Bacalocos Mandegarian, another caseworker died in Scarborough, Ontario’s Altamont Care Community. A native of Barotac,Nuevo in Iloilo, Mandegarian worked for 31 years in the health care industry.

64-year old Victoria Salvan died on April 17 , the first patient attendant to die in Montreal, Quebec.

Joe Marie (Jing) Parrenas Corral became the first Filipino-Canadian worker to die of Covid in Alberta. The 61-year old native of Iloilo City was a health-care worker at Calgary’s Bethany Riverview –  a long-term care centre specializing in caring for residents with dementia. He died on Dec. 28, 2020.

While frontliners were the first to die of the Covid virus, other Filipino workers were facing eminent threats in their workplaces.

Alberta had biggest outbreak

In Alberta, the country’s largest meat processing plant Cargill, was in the centre of the Covid outbreak, accounting for the largest number in the country. A majority of the workers are Filipinos.

We questioned whether Filipino workers were being bought to slaughter or made as sacrificial lambs in the bid to reopen the meat processing plant in Alberta at the height of the pandemic.

At the beginning of the year on January 28, 2021, the first Filipino-Canadian to fell victim to Covid was 35-year old Darwin Doloque who worked at the Olymel meat packing plant in Red Deer, Alberta. Doloque died in his home a week after self-isolating after testing positive.

35-year old Filipino meat-processing plant worker dies of COVID-19

Other Filipino-Canadians:

Malakias and Norma Guerrero died one week after each other. (Facebook)

Malakias Romero Guerrero, fondly known as ‘Mr. G’, passed away on December 10, 2020 at the age of 83 followed by his wife Norma on December 30, 2020.

The couple arrived in Canada in 1965. Malakias was a teacher and Norma was a nurse working for over 40 years at Centenary Hospital, Toronto Western and the UHN.

Filipinos constitute 1.2% of the Canadian workforce, (but) they constitute 5.6% of Canada’s total health care aide labour force, according to York University professor Ethel Tungohan. But hard data with race and ethnicity analysis is not being collected in B.C, Manitoba has just released a report that shows a disproportionate impact on the Black community , Indigenous and Filipinos.

The editor of The Winnipeg Free Press has critized the delay in the release in a scathing editorial saying “At this point in the pandemic, it should hardly qualify as news,” adding that “for months we’ve seen warning after warning from afar about the racial disparity behind COVID-19.”

 

 


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