Just three days short of the new year, Joe Corral died from Covid-19. Jing, as his family and friends called him, was a 61-year old Filipino-Canadian healthcare worker at a long-term care centre in southeast Calgary. He was described as a friend with a great sense of humour and an unparalleled work ethic. His friends also talked about his patience and compassion for the senior residents he cared for.
Meanwhile, a scandal over members of the United Conservative Party (UCP) travelling abroad for the holidays is in the spotlight. MLAs Jeremy Nixon, Jason Stephan, Tanya Fir, Pat Rehn, Tany Yao and Tracy Allard along with high-level UCP staff Jaime Huckabay went on vacation in Mexico, United States and the UK. When asked, the Premier’s office denied that they knew about the out of province vacations. It was only after the public outrage that Premier Jason Kenney publicly apologized and “accepted” the resignation and removed the MLAs from Cabinet positions. In a public statement, former Wild Rose MLA Scott Cyr, said Kenney’s apology on Friday “rung hollow with many Albertans”, and “The premier’s office is saying that they didn’t know. This is insulting for everybody,” he added.
While friends and families of Jing are still in mourning, two more health workers died in Alberta this month. Albertans and mostly health workers are making grave sacrifices while the UCP MLAs are tone deaf and disrespectful, ignoring the provincial Covid regulations their government created. NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman said in a news release “To the more than one thousand Alberta families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and everyone else who made sacrifices to follow the government orders and keep each other safe, a tan on a winter vacation for UCP MLAs is a slap in the face.” Hoffman called the decisions to travel “the height of arrogance and hypocrisy.”
Currently, there are 13,450 active cases in the province with an overall provincial death toll at 1,193. Jing and the second worker that passed worked in long-term care centres. There is disproportionate employment of Filipinos and people of color in the healthcare sector, mostly in long-term care centres. Canada statistics states that Filipinos make up 1.2 per cent of the Canadian workforce, however about 1 in 20 total health care workers in the country are Filipino. Filipinos also make up 90 percent of migrant caregivers providing in-home care through the Canada’s Caregiver Program.
Filipino health workers are still invisible. While there are extensive news reports of COVID-19 in long-term elderly care facilities, these reports ignored the risks that personal support workers (PSW) who are mostly Filipinos face. In fact, there are instances that PSWs were blamed for infecting their patients or they lacked training.
Albertans still have no idea how the vaccine will be rolled out. Premier Jason Kenney previously projected that 4,000 people a day would be vaccinated. At that rate, in a province that has 4 million people, it will take almost 3 years before everyone in Alberta is vaccinated. In a recent news article, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, hasn’t said exactly how quickly or when Alberta Health Services will be able to scale up vaccinations. The UCP government should focus on the vaccination campaign for all Albertans and terminate the MLAs that violated their own Covid policy on essential travel. That is the least they can do if they truly respect Joe Corral, the other health workers that died, and their families.