Daughter who lost dad to COVID-19 urges Ontario to close workplaces in outbreak across province

·3 min read
Kanaiya Gandhi, a Brampton man, developed COVID-19 symptoms in late December after an outbreak at the plant where he worked in York Region. About eight to 12 workers out of about 40 at the Woodbridge plant tested positive for COVID-19. He died on Feb. 4, 2021 at the age of 58. (Submitted by Radhika Gandhi  - image credit)
Kanaiya Gandhi, a Brampton man, developed COVID-19 symptoms in late December after an outbreak at the plant where he worked in York Region. About eight to 12 workers out of about 40 at the Woodbridge plant tested positive for COVID-19. He died on Feb. 4, 2021 at the age of 58. (Submitted by Radhika Gandhi - image credit)

A Brampton woman whose father died of COVID-19 says the Ontario government should temporarily shut down workplaces in outbreak across the province to save lives.

Radhika Gandhi said the government needs to follow the lead of Peel Public Health, which partially closed two Amazon centres on Saturday after outbreaks in which there were five or more linked cases over the span of two weeks. The centres are in Brampton and Bolton.

The centres have been closed under Section 22 of Ontario's Health Protection and Promotion Act. Toronto Public Health said it plans to announce on Monday whether it will close any workplaces.

"I am of the firm belief that it's a step in the right direction. However, it's far too late," Gandhi told CBC News on the weekend.

"These policies should have been in place when the pandemic had started. And I feel like we have been failed by the government because they took so long to realize that racialized and marginalized communities, such as Peel Region and almost all of Toronto, require different approaches and different support levels."

Her father, Kanaiya Gandhi, a Brampton man, developed COVID-19 symptoms in late December after an outbreak at the plant where he worked in York Region. About eight to 12 workers out of about 40 at the Woodbridge plant tested positive for COVID-19. He died on Feb. 4, 2021 at the age of 58.

"Now we have positivity rates through the roof in my hometown of Brampton and people are losing their lives."

WATCH | CBC's Talia Ricci reports on reaction to Peel Public Health's new policy of temporarily closing down workplaces in outbreak amid the third wave of the pandemic:

Gandhi noted that many factory workers in Brampton travel to neighbouring regions to work. For example, her father's commute was only about 10 minutes because he lived on the eastern side of Brampton. Workers are bringing the virus home and adding to community spread, she said.

"We need to provide essential workers with the adequate support and protection that they need."

'We don't need empty promises about paid sick leave'

Gandhi said the last words her father said to her were: "I want to come home." She said she realized, as he was taking his last breaths on a ventilator in an intensive care unit, that she was not going to be able to fulfill that promise.

Other essential workers should be able to go home safely to their families, she added.

"We don't need empty promises about paid sick leave. We need sick leave. We need legislation that holds employers accountable for paying employees for paid sick leave. We don't need a temporary solution. This needs to be implemented for the long run. Our essential workers have been neglected for far too long. And we need to act now."

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region's medical officer of health, said on Saturday that the public health unit identified 11 workplaces in total on Friday for "priority review" to stop the spread of the virus. The closures are an attempt to protect the community, he said.

Of the 11, the public health unit partially closed the two Amazon workplaces, it found out that three other workplaces have already been closed by their employers and it is reviewing six additional workplaces to determine if closure is necessary.

An obituary of Kanaiya Gandhi says: "Kanaiya had many quirks that made him a memorable person with a heart of gold."