(Canada Post-Special To The News)

(Canada Post-Special To The News)

Ontario Canada Post worksite hit by major virus outbreak excluded from inspections

Just this year more than 300 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and one person has died

Ontario labour inspectors are homing in on warehouses and distribution centres, but the site of a major workplace COVID-19 outbreak isn’t included in the ongoing inspections: Canada Post.

More than 300 employees at the postal service’s Gateway facility in Mississauga, Ont., have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the year and one employee has died. Canada Post advised customers across the country to expect delivery delays as the outbreak impacted operations at the central mail delivery hub.

But because Canada Post is a federally regulated Crown corporation, its inspection falls outside provincial jurisdiction.

The president of the national union representing postal workers said consistent standards should be applied to all workplaces, noting that the outbreak has had an “enormous impact on all postal workers.”

“The virus doesn’t distinguish between provincial and federal workplaces and neither should inspections,” Jan Simpson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said in a statement. “Workplaces and workers in the Peel Region have been hit hard by COVID-19. It’s in everyone’s best interest that all workplaces be inspected to ensure the health and safety of workers.”

Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said earlier this month that the ministry chose to focus on warehouses and distribution centres in Peel Region – the hard-hit region of the Greater Toronto Area – noting that such workplaces employ a high number of temporary and precarious workers.

“Every employer, I don’t care … who they’re owned by, knows the rules that they need to follow,” McNaughton said in an interview when the warehouse and distribution blitz was announced on Feb. 10. “There’s no excuses anymore.”

In the first week of the inspection “blitz” in Peel Region, inspectors visited 59 warehouses and issued issued 10 tickets and one order. They found compliance was just over 64 per cent, according to the ministry.

READ MORE: Canada’s ‘long-haulers’ without family doctor need primary care: medical association

However, McNaughton said the federal government has responsibility for the Canada Post workplace. He said all levels of government need to work together to make sure safety measures are in place.

“It’s all hands on deck, every level of government has to pull their weight,” he said. “I’m certainly ensuring that our ministry is doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of workers.”

Employment and Social Development Canada confirmed in a statement that the federal labour program “engaged” with the Gateway Canada Post facility “several” times between March 1, 2020 and Feb.12, including “to investigate refusals to work, to conduct an inspection into the (preventive) measures implemented, as well as to investigate the death of the employee.”

But it’s unclear what, if any, enforcement took place on those visits, or how many of them occurred and when. The department said information on specific findings including tickets issued couldn’t be shared publicly unless through an Access to Information request.

The department statement said it works with employers to help them fulfil legal obligations, but added that employers are “best positioned to determine the health and safety measures for their work environment in order to meet legislated requirements.”

“Therefore, the Labour Program does not prescribe specific measures to be taken in any federally regulated workplaces,” spokesperson Marie-Eve Sigouin-Campeau said in a statement.

Peel Public Health, which also supported Canada Post in managing the outbreak by ordering asymptomatic testing of all workers among other measures, also declined to share specific findings.

“As this is an ongoing, active investigation we are not in a position to disclose any further details,” Dr. Lawrence Loh, the region’s medical officer of health, said in a Feb. 17 statement. “Canada Post continues to co-operate with our investigation, and our joint priority remains protecting the health and safety of impacted employees and our broader community at this time.”

Tim Sly, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Ryerson University, said the “tangle of power struggle” between levels of government is a recurring characteristic of public health crisis management in Canada that can erode the public’s trust.

“It confuses everybody,” he said. “The city says one thing, the province says something else, the feds say something else, and the public is going around in circles saying that nobody knows what they’re doing.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 numbers in the Okanagan fall by more than 50%

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

North Island Gazette file photo of Port McNeill council.
Heated conversation occurs at Port McNeill council over policy request

Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom wants to see a change in the… Continue reading

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
The Port Alice pulp mill site is being ‘recycled’

Bankruptcy company is overseeing de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring.

Port Hardy Senior Citizens’ Society president Rosaline Glynn holds up the certificate from B.C. Premier John Horgan next to Loaves & Fishes director Peter Sinclair, vice president Kris Huddlestan, and Port Hardy mayor Dennis Dugas. (Submitted photo)
Port Hardy council to nominate Glynn for the Order of British Columbia

Glynn’s nomination was endorsed unanimously by council.

Emergency personnel crews on scene assisting BCEHS with patient care. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Speed and alcohol believed to be the cause of Saturday night car crash

More information on the crash could potentially be released at a later date.

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in accident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19 logging site in Gold River

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of dead B.C. Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife, secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

Comox Valley-raised Shay Sandiford has earned a spot on the Canada skateboard team. Facebook
Vancouver Islander selected to Canada’s first-ever national skateboard team

Courtenay’s Shay Sandiford has his eye on qualifying for this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Most Read