The family of a Jamaican farm worker, 40-year-old Tyrone Lee Jackson, who died while he was in quarantine in Canada, is demanding answers from the Canadian authorities as to the circumstances surrounding his death.
But the Ministry of Labour and Social Security says it has been in constant contact with the family and has provided grief counselling for them. According to the ministry it has also indicated that through the insurance scheme in place, all the funeral expenses for Jackson will be covered.
However, that has not satisfied the family members who say they are even more distraught as they were unable to recognise the remains when they were called to the local funeral home when the body of Jackson was finally returned to the island.
Michelle Harrison said her brother went to Canada to work on a on a farm in Leamington in mid-January.
“Shortly after his arrival, they said he tested positive for COVID-19 so they quarantined him and three others at a hotel. He was there jovial walking up and down and we talk to him and everything and during that time he wasn't showing any signs or symptoms.
“On Sunday, January 16 we talked to him before we go to church and he said he was OK. Early Monday morning my mom was calling him but she didn't get any answer, so we assumed he must have gone to work,” Harrison told the Jamaica Observer.
According to Harrison, the family did not know that anything was wrong until representatives of the Ministry of Labour accompanied by the police visited their home.
“They told my mother that they found him unresponsive and he passed away. Now my concern is that he passed away and the condition in which they sent the body to Jamaica was truly devastating.
“It break me, it break me totally because nobody informed the family that the body would be sent to Jamaica. We were called by the parlour to come and identify the body. The state that the body was in, we can't even recognise if it is truly my brother,” said Harrison
“I'm disappointed, truly disappointed because it look like we don't have anybody to fight for us and to defend us. For if it was somebody from Canada who passed away in Jamaica and if they got back the body in that form or state, Jamaica would be having issues and problems,” added Harrison.
The weeping sister said her brother, who would have celebrated his 41st birthday yesterday, February 27, was a jovial, loving and kind person who did not deserve to be treated in this manner.
“I want to know who is going to answer us, who is going to tell us what happened to my brother, where shall we start, how shall we start. My mother can't look at the body because of the condition that it was in. I am truly saddened by the circumstances under which he passed and how they handled the situation.
“They could have informed the family, they could have called us and let us prepare ourselves for that condition. It hurt my soul, it pains me,” declared Harrison
She says the family was told that Jackson died from pulmonary embolism.
“They say it was blood clot. The sent the body home without the family knowing, only to be called by the parlour to come and identify the body. I can't even tell if a mi brother to the condition that he is in. His face is decomposed, the mouth is open, you can see the state of decomposition in the mouth. For the remaining body parts we are not sure, but the face is swollen and him black.
He was a dark person and I know that death changes the features of a person but that is not my brother. Dem just send him home just so, like him a nobody pickney, like him no have nobody, dem just ship him out like a piece of luggage and nobody said anything, “ an angry Harrison added.
Jackson's mother, Mary, is struggling to come to terms with the death of her son.
“I'm not coping well at all and I don't know how much longer I will be able to cope. I am broken, I am devastated, my son leave here hearty and come back in this condition that my children cannot even show me a picture of his body because they say it is not in good condition.
“I would like to know what is going to happen, who is going to come to us and inform us, I would like the Government of Jamaica to investigate this matter. If it is so Jamaican farm workers are being treated in Canada,” she bemoaned.
She blasted the owners of the farm as she claimed that had not provided sufficient care for her son and demanded that they provide full details on the circumstances surrounding his death.
“This is a disgrace on the Government of Canada and the farm work programme. He cooks my food and goes to get my medication. He was a loving, caring, dynamic son to me and I can't believe that this thing happened. It is a shame, their living condition is very dirty and unsafe,” declared the grieving mother.
Media reports in Canada quoted Joe Sbrocchi, general manager of Ontario Greenhouse and Vegetable Growers, as saying Jackson seemed to be in good shape, he was double vaccinated, there was no indication prior, and he was set to come out of his quarantine the day after he died.
He said the farmer who Jackson was set to work for had gone to the hotel to check on him that morning.
“When the farmer arrived...he didn't answer the door,” Sbrocchi reportedly said.
“The farmer and the hotel manager went in, opened the door and found that he had passed away, or at least had no vital signs that they could detect.
“This particular farmer has an outstanding reputation for taking care of people and it's really unfortunate. He feels terrible about losing this gentleman and having such a young person passing away,” added Sbrocchi.
Ontario Provincial Police in Leamington and a liaison officer from the Jamaican consulate are reportedly probing the case.