Posted on Mar 30, 2021


EDMONTON – The Alberta NDP is renewing its call for a full public inquiry into the tragic COVID-19 outbreaks at Cargill and other processing plants in the wake of documents showing the UCP government withheld critical information from workers about the risk of transmission in their workplace.

According to documents reported by CBC News , Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen was notified by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw on April 18, 2020 that two Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) workers had contracted COVID-19 inside the High River plant despite new protective measures. 

That same day, mere hours after receiving this information, Dreehsen, Hinshaw and Labour Minister Jason Copping held a town hall meeting with Cargill workers and told them their workplace was safe. During the town hall, Dreeshen did not mention the CFIA cases, instead telling workers “everything that needs to be done, both to keep people safe and the food supply maintained, is being done."

“Devin Dreeshen told workers their workplace was safe when he was fully aware of further transmission occurring in the plant after the protective measures were put in place,” said Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley. 

“Thousands of people got sick. Two workers died. This government was profoundly irresponsible with the lives of these workers and their right to know about safety risks in their workplace. It’s clear we need a full public inquiry into this outbreak and the outbreaks at meat plants across Alberta.”

The High River Cargill plant shut down for two weeks in April 2020 after the outbreak affected more than 1,000 workers and contributed to spread throughout High River and surrounding communities. Two workers, 51-year-old Benito Quesada and 67-year-old Hiep Bui died after contracting COVID-19.

There were also COVID-19 outbreaks at the JBS facility in Brooks, the Harmony Beef facility in Balzac, another Cargill facility in Calgary, and the Olymel plant in Red Deer.