In April, the Council of Canadians warned that over 100 energy megaproject work camps are continuing to operate, across B.C. and the prairies. Each of these camps houses hundreds of workers in close proximity despite the need for physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve since learned that COVID-19 has made its way to several tar sands work camps, causing outbreaks at multiple sites.
An outbreak at the Kearl Lake work camp is now tied to over 100 cases in four provinces. La Loche, Saskatchewan has become the epicentre of the province’s COVID-19 outbreak, with dozens of cases. Tragically, two Indigenous elders have lost their lives to COVID-19 in this community.
We have seen what happens when workplace outbreaks aren’t taken seriously. In High River, Alberta at the Cargill meat-packing plant, workers and their unions raised safety concerns about 38 known cases at the plant. The plant continued to operate and now three workers have died of COVID-19, and over 1,500 cases of COVID-19 can be linked the plant. Another Cargill plant in Quebec will close to allow all workers to be tested following a COVID-19 outbreak.
In Regina, there is political opposition to one work camp that continues to operate. PressProgress reported Regina Councillor Andrew Stevens raised concerns about Co-op Refinery’s work camp for the 300 scab workers that are on site. In PressProgress, Councillor Stevens states: “From a presumably common sense public health perspective, if you cram a lot of people into a camp like that, naturally there’s going to be a vector of diseases.”
Elected leaders at all levels must act now. The Council of Canadians is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to shut down these unsafe work camps immediately. More than 8,500 people have signed the petition calling for the camps to be shut down – can you help us reach 10,000?