27 charges laid against Norfolk County farm where around 200 workers tested positive for COVID-19
A Norfolk County farm where around 200 migrant workers tested positive for COVID-19 last spring and summer is now facing 27 charges under the Reopening Ontario Act and the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Seven charges were laid against Scotlynn Sweetpac Growers Inc. in April 2021. In September 2021, there were another 20 charges -- 10 against the company as an employer and 10 against Scott Biddle, President and CEO of Scotlynn Group.
The COVID-19 outbreak began last May and was finally declared over in July after around 200 workers had tested positive for the disease. The charges relate to alleged offences committed during that period of time in 2020.
Juan López Chaparro, a 55-year-old father of four, died from COVID-19 complications during the outbreak. Chaparro was employed by the Scotlynn Group in Vittoria and had been travelling to Canada from Mexico to work there since 2010.
Court documents say the company "failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that alternative measures were taken, such as the use of masks or face coverings and/or barriers, where workers did not maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from others, to protect workers from the transmission of COVID-19 at the workplace."
The documents also allege Scotlynn "failed to take the reasonable precaution of providing workers in the fields with reasonable access to hand hygiene facilities and/or hand hygiene products" and didn't "take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that people who have a higher likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 were identified and excluded from the workplace…."
This is the first COVID-19-related prosecution of an employer under occupational health and safety laws in Ontario, according to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
CTV Kitchener has reached out to Scotlynn for comment.
None of the charges have been tested in court.
With reporting by CTV Kitchener's Krista Simpson