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

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

Just Posted

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Ashcroft RCMP are warning businesses to be aware of a suspect passing counterfeit $50 and $100 bills in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek area. (Photo credit: Stock image)
Counterfeit money being circulated in Ashcroft/Cache Creek area

Police are warning local businesses to be on the alert for counterfeit cash

The former Ashcroft Elementary School building, which closed as a school in 2015 and is now operated as the Ashcroft HUB, pictured during Skip’s Run, June 2017. The board of education of SD74 voted on March 2 to sell the property to the society for a ‘nominal fee’. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
School district votes to sell Ashcroft HUB for ‘nominal fee’ to HUB Society

Amendment to motion seeks to keep school district’s financial interests in property secure

Cache Creek council say that budget meetings have to take place before a public meeting about the fate of the pool — first promised in May 2019 — can be held. (Photo credit: Journal files)
No date set for public meeting to discuss fate of Cache Creek pool

Council says public meeting cannot take place until budget discussions have been held

The RCMP arrest one of the suspects on Highway 97 courtesy of cell phone footage shot by a bystander. (April Thomas photo)
WATCH: Two suspects arrested after multi-jurisdictional chase

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

Most Read