Filipinos in Canada meat plant being scapegoated for Covid spread

/ 07:09 AM May 21, 2020

Nearly 70 percent of workers at the Cargill meat plant in High River , Alberta are of Filipino descent. The plant is the site of the biggest Covid-19 outbreak in Canada. CARGILL HANDOUT

CALGARY, Alberta – Filipinos say they are being scapegoated for the spread of the coronavirus because nearly 70 percent of the workers at the Cargill meat plant in High River, the site of Canada’s largest outbreak of COVID-19, are of Filipino descent.

“Some of them are being asked ‘Are you an employee of Cargill?’, and they get turned down to shop at a grocery store for example, even if they have been cleared by Alberta Health Services,” Marichu Antonio, executive director of non-profit ActionDignity, told CTV News Calgary.

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Some banks have even refused entry to Filipino residents, according to Antonio. Online diatribes have also increased, “blaming the Filipino community for spreading the virus when the reality is they (Cargill workers) got this from work.”

Arwyn Sallegue, among the Cargill workers who contracted COVID-19 on the job, told CTV News, “No one can be blamed because this virus is not made by us. Everybody can get hit by this virus, (it) doesn’t matter who you are, if you are white or black, or anyone.” Sallegue has recovered but his father, Armando, who was visiting from the Philippines, also caught the disease and died.

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Cesar Cala of the Philippines Emergency Response Taskforce said Alberta Pvince’s health officials and politicians need to speak out against scapegoating.

Many Filipino Cargill employees are Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW), whose legal stay in Canada is dependent on employment with a single employer.  Cala said TFWs cannot quit and look for a new job when they feel unsafe at work.

Action Dignity is aiding quarantined Cargill employees and their family members by raising funds for groceries and protective equipment delivered by community volunteers, said Antonio.

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TAGS: Cargill meat plant, coronavirus scapegoating, Filipino meat plant workers, pandemic bigotry, racism, temporary foreign workers, xenophobia
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