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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The organizers of the annual 39 days of July festival hope to return to live shows in Charles Hoey Park this year, like in this photo taken in 2019, but audiences at the show may be limited to 50 people due to health protocols. (File photo)
39 Days of July hoping for outdoor events in Duncan this summer

Annual music festival will run from June 25 to Aug. 2 this year

Cowichan Valley WildSafeBC coordinator Amanda Crowston teaches a Grade 5/6 class at Ecole Cobble Hill last fall. (Submitted)
The bears are back in town and so is WildSafeBC

The bears are back in town so keep an eye out, reminds… Continue reading

The Regional District of Nanaimo has its sights set on busing to the Cowichan Valley in time for March 2022. (News Bulletin file)
Bus link between Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley expected by next March

Unallocated transit hours already in Regional District of Nanaimo budget

North Cowichan has heated exchange over timelines of its official community plan review. (File photo)
North Cowichan’s OCP review divides council

Tight timelines leads to heated debate

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The majority of city council votes in favour of this design for a new Salmon Arm flag on Monday, May 10, 2021. (City of Salmon Arm image)
Majority of council salutes new flag for Salmon Arm

Two councillors raise concerns about logo being too corporate for a flag

(Pixabay)
B.C. doctors could face consequences for spreading COVID misinformation: college

College says doctors have a higher level of responsibility to not spread incorrect information

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives his COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination in Ottawa, Friday, April 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
75% of Canadians need 1st vaccine dose to have more normal summer: Trudeau

The country is on track to hit a major milestone on the road to COVID-19 herd immunity Tuesday, with 40% vaccinated with a 1st dose

A black bear, dubbed Huckleberry by Deep Cove, B.C., residents died on July 31, 2020, after becoming conditioned to food and humans. (North Shore Black Bear Society photo)
Fewer dead bears, more fines: Advocates call for B.C. conservation officer reform

B.C. Bear Alliance wants to see body cameras on conservation officers after more than 600 black bears were killed this past year

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Drug users were shut out of Vancouver’s decriminalization proposal, critics say, demanding redo

The coalition is asking the city to raise the proposed drug thresholds from a 3-day supply

David and Julie Kaplan with their children Estelle and Justin. (Special to The News)
COVID-19 border closure stops B.C. family’s cross-country move

Maple Ridge couple, two kids, turned away at New Brunswick border

Kelowna RCMP precinct. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna RCMP reviewing rough arrest after video shared on social media

The video shows an officer punching a man while arresting him for allegedly driving a stolen car

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
B.C. to provide three days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Most Read