April 28, 2020
BAYAN-Canada, with its member organizations all across Canada, extends our deep sympathies to the bereaved families who have lost their beloved kababayan frontline workers to COVID-19.
Every day, Filipino frontline workers and essential workers are in action as they tirelessly perform their work. They are the pillars of their families here and back in the Philippines; they are the backbone of the care sector in many countries in the West.
Filipinos are 850,000 people strong in Canada and FIlipino men and women dominate the occupational fields of health care, manufacturing and hospitality, personal care, service industry sectors that are deemed “essential” but undervalued.
The Philippine government deploys more nurses abroad to staff the global health care system than any other country in the world. Filipinos also make up a third of all cruise ship workers. In Canada, Filipinos make up the largest group of care home workers in long-term care facilities. In the service industry, immigrants make sure food is delivered to our doorsteps. Moreover, many Filipinos in Canada do not have the privilege of staying home or working from home during this pandemic.
Little is known about how Filipinos cope and survive after testing positive from the coronavirus, or when their family and colleagues get sick. Support services are inadequate and almost nonexistent. COVID-19 painfully exposes the existing social and job inequalities. It worsens social determinants of health in at-risk communities. Combined with this reality, it is possible that many Filipinos in Canada might be experiencing high levels of anxiety, depression and trauma as a result of having the life of someone they care about seriously threatened by the deadly virus.
A number of our kababayan have succumbed to the scourge of the deadly pandemic. How do we honour the workers who have lost their lives on the job or have been injured on the job? One powerful way of honouring their sacrifices is calling the authorities to provide better protection, better pay, adequate number of sick leaves and adequate personal protective equipment. For essential workers, whose work during the pandemic rendered them “visible” (like the cleaners, the grocery clerks, the meat plant workers), we call for better wages, benefits and for these positive changes to be made permanent after this COVID crisis is over.
We reiterate the call of Migrante-Canada in their open letter earlier this month: “We continue to organize and campaign for our rights and welfare as workers in Canada even as, at the same time, we continue to challenge our government back home to ensure the protection and welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers.”
With May One just around the corner, Bayan Canada has launched Kapitbisig Laban COVID Canada in the different cities of Vancouver, Alberta, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa as a mutual aid network to help our kababayan workers and their families and to empower them under the time of COVID-19.
On April 28, we pay our respects and we remember the thousands of workers who have lost their lives, been injured or suffered illness as we mark The Day of Mourning, also known as Workers’ Memorial Day.
There are at least four recently reported Pinoy healthcare workers (1 in BC, 2 in Ont. and 1 in Quebec) who passed away due to Covid-19 in Canada:
Warlito Valdez, 47, from Richmond, BC died April 5. Valdez, husband of Flozier Tabangin and father to their four-year-old daughter Charlotte, worked as a residential support worker at a home for people with intellectual and physical disabilities that is run by the Richmond Society for Community Living.
Christie Totten, a manager at the society who worked with Valdez, said she was struck by his dedication to his family. She said he worked tirelessly to provide for them. Valdez trained as a nurse in his home country of the Philippines before moving to Canada three years ago.
“His greatest fear after being diagnosed with COVID-19 was spreading the illness to his wife or daughter. He brought a high level of professionalism and dedication to his work.”
Ronald V. David , 58, from Brampton, Ont. died April 9. Uncle Ronald, as he was fondly called, is believed to be the first known Ontario health-care worker to die after getting sick with the highly contagious respiratory disease. He worked as an environmental services associate at the hospital for many years.
Marie Christine Bacalocos Mandegarian or “Ate Inday”, 54 years old from Scarborough, Ont. died on April 15th 2020 at Scarborough General Hospital. She was a personal support worker at Sienna Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Ont. She did not have a PPE at the long-term care centre she worked at for 31 years. Her family described her as a dedicated mother, wife, daughter, cousin, niece, grand-daughter, friend, and colleague at Altamont Nursing Home in Scarborough.
Victoria Salvan, 64, from Montreal, QC died on April 17. Salvan became the first patient attendant in Quebec to die of COVID-19. She immigrated from the Philippines in 1986. She had two grown sons and had been working as a personal support worker for more than 25 years at the Grace Dart Long-Term Care Centre.
She was very dedicated. She took more overtime until the end because of staff shortages. For her, it was an obligation to keep going,” her son said.”The residents she cared for were like her children. And they saw her as a mother. Her co-workers were like her brothers and sisters,” he adds.