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Canadian police to probe Cargill worker’s COVID death: report

By Kate Gibson on 1/11/2021

Canadian police are investigating the death of a Cargill meat plant worker of COVID-19 in Alberta, according to a report by the CBC.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP, confirmed to the news outlet that it had opened a probe into the May 7 death of Benito Quesada, a 51-year-old immigrant from Mexico. The probe is the first known case of Canadian police investigating a workplace-related COVID death, the CBC said.

Quesada was among hundreds of workers at Cargill's plant in High River, Alta., infected with the coronavirus in April. At least 940 workers at the Cargill plant, or nearly half its workforce, had tested positive for COVID-19 by early May. It remains Canada’s largest workplace outbreak, with Cargill facing at least one class-action lawsuit as a result.

Quesdada’s 16-year-old daughter on Friday filed a formal complaint asking that police investigate potential criminal negligence in her father’s death. The complaint cites a provision in criminal code that states employers have a duty to take “reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm” to workers.

In a statement emailed to Meatingplace, Cargill's North American Media Relations Director Daniel Sullivan said that while the company had not seen the complaint or been contacted by RCMP yet, he could share that, "At Cargill, the safety of our employees is our top priority.

Maintaining a safe workplace has long been one of our core values and we recognize that the well-being of our plant employees is integral to our business and to the continuity of the food supply chain throughout Canada. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked closely with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Occupational, Health and Safety (OHS) to add safety measures as they become available to safeguard our valued co-workers.

Representatives from both organizations have been on site on multiple occasions and have approved of the actions we have taken during this global pandemic. Cargill has operated in a manner that meets or exceeds the government’s health and safety standards. But our work doesn’t end there and we continue to learn how to help slow the spread of the global pandemic with each new day. We want to work with everyone to focus on keeping people healthy and delivering safe food to people across Canada."

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