Ontario Premier Doug Ford walks to a press conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario Premier Doug Ford walks to a press conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

‘Lost for words:’ Grief, anger, generosity after COVID-19 kills Ontario girl, 13

A private member’s bill that would have mandated paid sick leave failed in the Ontario legislature

A 13-year-old girl’s death from COVID-19 at her home in Brampton, Ont., while her mother lay in hospital with the disease sparked an outpouring of grief, anger and community generosity on Monday.

The girl, Emily Viegas, died last Thursday after her father, an essential warehouse worker, reportedly tried to care for her in the family apartment because he worried the overburdened local hospital would transfer her to a facility far from home.

Premier Doug Ford, who has come under scathing criticism for his past refusal to implement paid sick leave for essential workers, expressed condolences for the “terrible loss of this young life.” He called it a “heart-wrenching and a devastating reminder” of the what the virus can do.

“My heart breaks for this family,” Ford, who is in quarantine after a staffer tested positive, said in a statement. “I can’t imagine the unbearable pain and sorrow they are feeling right now.”

According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, Emily had for a week been showing symptoms similar to those that had put her mother in hospital. Her vaccinated father, the family bread winner, feared the hospital would be unable to treat his daughter and opted to keep her at home — where her brother also lives — and tried to nurse her back to health.

Instead, Emily abruptly took a turn for the worse and became one of the country’s youngest pandemic victims.

“It felt real when I found her in bed,” Carlos Viegas told the Globe. “I put my head to her chest and I couldn’t feel nothing. No heartbeat. No nothing. No breathing.”

Brampton is one of the worst COVID-19 hot spots in Canada due to several workplace outbreaks. Health professionals and labour activists have long argued the province had failed to close down infected workplaces and designate their workers as a vaccination priority.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who raised the tragedy in the House of Commons, said Emily’s father did not have paid sick leave.

“Thirteen-year-old Emily did not have to die,” Singh said. “We need to make sure there is paid sick leave.”

In response to Singh’s questioning, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough gave a list of benefits the Liberal government had provided, but made no reference to Emily, leaving Singh visibly agitated.

A private member’s bill that would have mandated paid sick leave failed in the Ontario legislature on Monday, with Ford’s Progressive Conservatives voting it down 55 to 20. Ford said last week that his government would be bringing in a sick-leave policy that would fill “gaps” in a federal benefit.

READ MORE: B.C. begins looking for its own COVID-19 sick pay solution

Several area politicians took to social media to express their condolences, including Patrick Brown, mayor of Brampton, who called Emily’s death “beyond heart wrenching.”

“As a parent, I am lost for words,” he said. “Horrifying. We can never underestimate the seriousness of COVID-19 and the variants.”

Gurratan Singh, provincial NDP representative from Brampton East, said the city was in a pandemic “crisis,” with people dying at an alarming rate. Brampton has lagged in terms of access to vaccines, said Singh, who accused the Ford government of abandoning the city just northwest of Toronto.

In response, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Brampton had received “significant” assistance.

“There is no suggestion that they’re receiving any less than they’re entitled to,” Elliott told the legislature, where a minute of silence was held Monday.

A fast-rising crowdfunding initiative to raise money for the stricken family topped $80,000 late Monday afternoon, far in excess of its initial $10,000 target.

Adrian Goddard, a friend of Emily’s father who organized the fundraiser, said the money would go to pay funeral and burial costs.

“Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult and unfortunate time,” Goddard wrote.

Emily’s father is a well-known local ball hockey referee. The Ontario Ball Hockey Association expressed its sympathies.

“We regret to inform you that Carlos Viegas lost his daughter Emily Victoria Viegas to COVID this past week and she was only 13 years old,” the association said in a tweet.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said it was focusing on supporting staff and students hit by Emily’s death.

Last week, Ontario’s chief coroner Dirk Huyer said more people were dying suddenly at home from COVID-19 without having called for an ambulance. Huyer said it was too soon to explain why that might be happening.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, said on Monday he worried the province could see more deaths among such young people, saying COVID-19 can “impact very quickly.”

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusOntario

Just Posted

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

.
Princeton’s Spotlight wins two provincial awards for excellence

Publisher takes first place for investigative reporting

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Most Read