Migrant worker who died of COVID-19 in Norfolk County being remembered
Published Sunday, June 28, 2020 6:25PM EDT Last Updated Monday, June 29, 2020 6:29AM EDT
KITCHENER -- A memorial has been held for Juan Lopez Chaparro: the migrant worker in Norfolk County who died of COVID-19.
The 55-year-old father of four passed away in a London hospital on June 20.
He was one of 200 migrant workers at the Scotlynn Group in Vittoria who tested positive for the virus.
In Mexico, it is tradition to do "La Novena" - a nine days of prayer gathering - after someone has died. This was honoured Sunday night at Blessed Sacrement in Burford.
"It hits home because this is a strong farming community and most of the farmers I know do really get attached to their workers," said Reverend Peter Ciallella. "The ones that I know say they're part of our family, so they feel the loss like anybody else."
The mainly Spanish service was held to allow Chaparro's family and coworkers to say goodbye.
Since Chaparro's coworkers are in the process of getting released from quarantine, the service was live-streamed as well.
Only invited guests were allowed to attend the Sunday night mass due to COVID-19 restrictions on religious services.
Family remembers Chaparro as loving, kind, and generous
Chaparro’s family says he came to Canada from Mexico every spring for the past decade to work at the farm and support them back home.
He had just marked his 26th anniversary in May, far away from his wife, when he tested positive for COVID-19.
Karen Cocq, the campaign coordinator at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, is speaking on behalf of his family, and says they are still in deep grief and shock.
“He and his wife had to celebrate at a distance, and now won’t be able to celebrate together anymore,” she said.
Cocq says they describe Chaparro as a loving, kind, and generous person who put others first.
“From speaking to him in hospital, his first and foremost concern was his family, looking out for his family, ensuring his wellbeing,” she said.
Cocq adds that the family is still working to bring his body back to Mexico.
“Their grief is made worse by the distance, by the inability to be where Juan died and the inability to have access to his body immediately,” she said.
“Rather than being able to focus on the loss and the grief, they’re needing to worry about what they’re going to do now and how they’re going to take care of themselves.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been started by Ciallella to help Chaparro's family.
Cocq says his death is also reigniting calls for change.
“In the memory of Juan, that migrant workers deserve better,” she said. “Migrant workers deserve the same rights and protections and respect and dignity as everyone else.”