Crosses are displayed in memory of residents who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility in Mississauga, Ont., on Nov. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Crosses are displayed in memory of residents who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility in Mississauga, Ont., on Nov. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Grandparents, researchers, friends: 20,000 people in Canada have died of COVID-19

It’s been just over a year since Canada recorded its first case of the virus

When Thelma Coward-Ince donned her uniform in 1954, she was believed to be the first Black reservist in the Royal Canadian Navy.

Decades later, the strong, hard-working great-grandmother moved into the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax due to dementia. She lived there for five years among other navy veterans until a deadly virus began silently and rapidly spreading last spring.

Coward-Ince, a woman who spent her life breaking down racial barriers and became a pillar of the Black community in Halifax, died April 17 after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

More than 20,000 Canadians have now died from COVID-19.

Since the first death last March, health officials across the country have shared the grim daily numbers of the pandemic’s fatal toll.

There have been grandparents, parents, single mothers and children. Some were health-care workers and others who worked to ensure Canadians had essential supplies.

Many who died, like Coward-Ince, were residents of crowded care homes, which served as fuel to the fire of the virus during the first and second waves of the pandemic.

Curtis Jonnie, better known as Shingoose, left behind a legacy that many have said set the course for generations of Indigenous musicians.

Jonnie, an Ojibway from Manitoba’s Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation, was a residential school and ’60s Scoop survivor. He became a fixture of the folk music scene and was instrumental in pressuring the Juno Awards to establish a category for Indigenous music in the 1990s.

The 74-year-old lived in a Winnipeg care home when he tested positive for COVID-19. He died earlier this month.

“Through his pain and life experiences, he’s made such a huge contribution,” his daughter, Nahanni Shingoose-Cagal, said at the time.

COVID-19 also blazed through meat-packing plants last year. Many of those infected were people who had come to Canada looking for a better life.

Benito Quesada worked at a large slaughterhouse south of Calgary. The 51-year-old from Mexico was a union shop steward at the Cargill plant in High River, Alta.

“He always told me how proud he was for having been able to bring his family to Canada,” said Michael Hughes with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401.

Quesada, described as a quiet, gentle and humble man, was one of two plant employees to die from COVID-19 when the virus infected nearly half of its 2,200 staff last spring.

READ MORE: Over 1,500 COVID orders issued after workplace inspections

Hiep Bui worked at the plant for 23 years. The 67-year-old met her husband on a refugee boat when they both fled the Vietnam War.

“I just want everyone to remember my wife … was a wonderful lady, very generous and very compassionate,” Nga Nguyen, her husband, said at the time.

Many people who died spent their final weeks and months fighting on the front lines of the pandemic.

Maureen Ambersley was working at an Extendicare nursing home in Mississauga, Ont., when she tested positive in December. She died Jan. 5.

The 57-year-old was loved by her colleagues and worked as a registered practical nurse for more than 16 years, her union, SEIU Healthcare, said. She was the fourth union member to die from COVID-19.

An online fundraiser for Ambersley’s family said the grandmother was a maternal figure to many. She baked, cooked and knitted for family and friends, and loved helping people as much as she could.

ALSO READ: Host arrested, attendees fined $17K after alleged party in Vancouver penthouse

Laurence Menard was a 33-year-old single mother who worked as a social work technician at a community health clinic in Drummond, Que., before her death last May. Most of her clients were in seniors’ homes.

“Laurence had a lot of character, she had guts. She was frank and did not beat around the bush,” said her sister, Virginie Menard.

Huy Hao Dao spent the weeks before his death working as a COVID-19 researcher and investigator, tracking down infected patients to learn how they caught the virus and tracing those who they came into contact with.

The 45-year-old Quebec doctor known for his perpetual smile died in April.

He was a pharmacist before he went to medical school to become a specialist in public health and preventive medicine. He was also a professor at the University of Sherbrooke.

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada said at the time that Dao had heroically served the medical profession during the global, life-changing pandemic.

“It is a startling reminder that the threat of COVID-19 is very real,” the college said.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
Vancouver Island woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Views of Nanaimo, Newcastle Channel and the Strait of Georgia from the Nanaimo Parkway. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Editorial: Each resident has a say in how this city of 100,000 grows

City of Nanaimo wants to hear from residents as transition from small town to big city continues

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from the beach in rescue attempt in Nanaimo

Animal dies in spite of efforts of marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires Vancouver Island wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

The Township of Esquimalt will finalize its plastic bag ban in March, after receiving approval from the province for its proposed bylaw. (THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo/Paul Chiasson)
Plastic bag ban coming soon to Esquimalt

Municipality set to enact bylaw outlawing single-use bags in March

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

The Campbell River Rotary Community Fieldhouse solar installation is designed to offset the energy use of the fieldhouse and the turf lights surrounding the field. Photo contributed
Solar power charges up Campbell River fieldhouse

Robron turf field building eneergized thanks to community partnership

West Coast-themed metal art by Nanaimo artists Hayley Willoughby (pictured), her father Jack and partner Blair LeFebvre is on display in the window of Lululemon at Woodgrove Centre from now until March 13 as part of the store’s monthly local artist program. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Metal artists present cross-generational show at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Work by Hayley Willoughby, her partner and father on display in Lululemon window

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Amy Morrison was surprised to find a note on her windshield for parking on a public street with no restrictions in south Oak Bay where she works. (Amy Morrison Photo)
Note left for Oak Bay resident ignites debate about on-street parking

‘You must have noticed, we park in front of OUR HOUSE,’ note writer says

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Cowichan Tribes open up vaccinations for members who are 40 and older. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes opens up vaccinations for members 18 and older

Vaccination sessions to be held over weekend

Most Read