Migrant worker at Norfolk County, Ont., farm dies of coronavirus

A migrant worker employed at a farm in Norfolk County, Ont., has died due to the novel coronavirus, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said Sunday.

The worker was identified on Monday by the advocacy group Migrant Rights Network as 55-year-old Juan López Chaparro, a father of four from Mexico who had been coming to Canada to work since 2010.

The health unit says the farm has seen 199 cases among migrant workers, along with 18 cases involving other people associated with the farm.

The health unit said it first became aware of an outbreak towards the end of May.

On May 31, the mayor of Norfolk County said 120 workers at the farm, owned by Scotlynn Group, had tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, with seven of them having been admitted to hospital.

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By June 12, the health unit said that number had grown to 169, in addition to 18 others associated with the farm.

The health unit says the medical officer of health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, along with a member of the Catholic clergy and health unit staff, visited workers at the farm Saturday night to personally deliver the news.

“I’m extremely saddened at this loss of life,” says Kristal Chopp, chair of the board of health.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that someone who comes to Canada to work in the agricultural industry and support his family back home loses his life so far from his loved ones.”

Two other migrant workers have died due to COVID-19 in the Windsor region.

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Around 20,000 migrant workers come to Ontario each year to work on farms and in greenhouses, and this year were required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the quarantine measures and protections for temporary foreign workers in the workplace were strong and “obviously” those rules were not followed in some cases.

“We’re extremely concerned by that and there will be consequences for companies that did not follow the rules,” he said.

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Hundreds of migrant workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in outbreaks at farms in Windsor-Essex, Haldimand-Norfolk, and Chatham-Kent.

“In Canada anyone doing work, let alone essential work as part of our food chain, needs to feel protected,” Trudeau continued.

“Obviously, in the case of these three tragic deaths, that wasn’t the case. We are ensuring that changes are made and that there will be consequences.”

— With files from the Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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