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Filipino workers at meatpacking plant tied to Canada's biggest COVID-19 outbreak feel unfairly blamed –



Arwyn Sallegue, an employee of Cargill’s meat-packing plant in High River, Alta. — where 558 workers have confirmed cases of COVID-19 — said he’s noticed an upsetting trend online.

Cases connected to the Cargill meat plant outbreak have increased dramatically over the past two weeks. As of Friday, there were 558 cases in workers from the plant, with 798 total cases linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s the largest outbreak linked to a single site in Canada.

“I see a bunch of [comments] blaming us [for the outbreak], because they said it’s in the households,” he said.

“We cannot blame anybody. Everyone’s a victim. Nobody wants to become sick and ill.” 

Sallegue, who is a permanent resident of Canada, tested positive for COVID-19 on April 23 and has been in self-isolation. The same day, his father, Armando Sallegue, visiting Canada from the Philippines, also developed symptoms. He, too, was confirmed to have the virus.

“He’s only a visitor here, and he doesn’t have any health-care coverage,” Sallegue said. “He was hardly breathing. He went to the ICU.”

Arwyn Salleague’s father, Armando Sallegue, who is visiting Canada from the Philippines, is in an intensive care unit after testing positive for COVID-19. (Arwyn Sallegue)

Elma Ton, whose husband works at Cargill, said she also has been disappointed to see comments online, specifically those that disparage multiple Filipino families living under one roof.

“I feel bad. Because instead of helping [the Filipino community], supporting them, understanding them, they’re still making fun of us,” Ton said.

“Filipinos are known to have strong family ties. So as much as possible, we love to live together.”

Lisa Degenstein, who works for the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society in High River, said she had heard of similar comments targeting the Filipino community over the past number of days.

“There’s something a little disturbing happening, a bit of community backlash happening. People say, ‘Hey, don’t you work at Cargill?'” she said. “And isn’t it a lot easier to look at someone who isn’t white and start making assumptions.”

Feeling blamed

One employee at the Cargill plant, a woman of Vietnamese background in her sixties, has died. 

Employees at the facility have accused the company of ignoring physical-distancing protocols — citing “elbow-to-elbow” working conditions — and of trying to lure them back to work from self-isolation. 

A separate outbreak at the JBS meat processing plant in Brooks now has seen 156 cases in workers from the plant, with two deaths — a worker and an individual linked to the outbreak. That plant remains open, operating at one shift per day.

A big chunk of the workforce at the Cargill facility are Filipino, some of whom are temporary foreign workers (TFWs) and others who are permanent residents. Employees interviewed estimated 60 to 80 per cent of the workforce is Filipino.

Cesar Cala with the Philippines Emergency Response Taskforce — a network of volunteers that seeks to support crises in the Filipino community — said many in the community are afraid to speak out about their experiences, especially TFWs whose stay in Canada is linked to their employment at these facilities.

Cesar Cala, a volunteer with the Philippines Emergency Response Taskforce, said many Filipinos feel like they’re being singled out and blamed for the crisis at Cargill. (Cesar Cala)

But this has posed a challenge, as Cala said many in the community feel as though their concerns were not taken seriously.

“Many Filipino workers and residents sent a letter to the company asking that the plant be closed so that safety measures could be put in place, but no actions were taken,” Cala said. 

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That letter was signed by more than 250 Filipino residents and sent April 12 — a day before 38 cases were confirmed by the union — calling for the plant to be closed for two weeks.

The plant remained open for the rest of the week, and 358 cases were confirmed five days later.

‘Several pieces of this puzzle’

On April 18, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen, along with Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, and other health officials, participated in a telephone town hall with Cargill workers. Dreeshen said he was confident the plant was safe.

Two days later, Cargill announced it would shut down the facility temporarily after it was announced that a worker had died.

“The situation got worse, and what [the Filipino community is] hearing from officials is that they are the ones spreading the virus,” Cala said.

Hinshaw has said that many cases at the Cargill facility were likely exposed to COVID-19 weeks ago, and many factors have been identified that contributed to the spread. 

Employees continued to carpool to work after safety measures were introduced at the plant, Hinshaw said, and some employees of continuing care centres with outbreaks also lived in large households with Cargill workers.

Many family members living in those households also don’t have enough space to self isolate, she said.

“There seems to be several pieces of this puzzle, and the challenge has been to put all of those pieces together,” Hinshaw said Monday. “I would say that plant shutdown is not a single, only factor in this.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Friday that there is no reason to assume that everyone connected with Cargill is infected with COVID-19. (Art Raham/CBC)

Later in the week, Hinshaw said those affected by the outbreak deserved support, and should not be restricted from accessing businesses like grocery stores or banks.

“There is no reason to assume that everyone connected with that facility is infected,” she said. “The people who are affected by this outbreak are experiencing many difficulties, and they need support and compassion as we work to stop further spread.”

Challenges and frustrations

Cala said the realities of transportation and housing are out of the control of many employees at these facilities. Having sent a letter voicing their concerns before numbers of confirmed cases skyrocketed, Cala said they now feel they have been unfairly blamed.

“That’s why I think it’s important that public leaders need to speak out and say, no, this is our common, collective issue, it’s not an issue of the Filipino community,” Cala said. “No one is covering their backs. It’s more like, ‘Hey, you’re partly to blame for this.’ That’s not very good to hear.”

Cargill is one of the two primary beef suppliers for McDonald’s Canada, and normally processes about 4,500 cattle per day at this time of year. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Daniel Sullivan, a spokesperson with Cargill, said the company was working with health officials and community organizations to provide further support for TFWs and other employees.

“Our workers have been deemed essential – like healthcare workers and first responders – and we are committed to supporting them,” he said in an email to CBC News. “It is important to know that all TFWs are union members with the same wages and benefits as other workers in our facilities.”

Sallegue, still in self-isolation as he awaits news on his father in ICU, said he hopes that foreign workers can receive the support they need.

“Only thing I’m feeling right now is, we need support. We are here to work, to contribute and help,” he said. “I hope you will not blame our community.”

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3 Canadian Dividend Stocks that Haven’t Missed a Payout for 100+ Years



Local dividend investors are lucky. They have a good selection of Canada’s finest companies to choose from – stocks that haven’t missed a dividend payment in decades. In fact, a small number of companies have paid uninterrupted dividends for a century or longer.

That’s a pretty impressive track record.

There’s just one problem. Instead of sticking with these excellent long-term dividend kings, investors get a little cute. They load up on lesser stocks, enticed by a succulent yield, deep value opportunity, or better growth potential. Sometimes these investments work out, but often they don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with that approach. After all, diversification is a good thing. But I still think the bedrock of the average Canadian investment portfolio should consist of these dividend kings, the kinds of companies you can count on no matter what.

This is doubly important in a COVID-19 world.

Let’s take a closer look at three of Canada’s top dividend kings, shares that have paid investors consistently for at least the past 100 years.

Bank of Montreal

We might as well start at the top. Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO)(NYSE:BMO) has the longest dividend streak in Canada. It started paying a dividend back in 1829 and hasn’t missed a payment since. That’s a remarkable record.

BMO is hardly the largest bank in Canada. It’s only the fourth-largest. But it’s still a formidable company with a market cap exceeding $45 billion. The company has retail, commercial, and capital markets operations across both Canada and the United States. It’s also a big wealth manager on both sides of the border and is a major player in the exchange-traded fund market. In fact, BMO was the first major Canadian bank to expand into the United States.

Today is an excellent opportunity to pick up BMO shares on the cheap. Despite rallying significantly earlier in the week, this dividend king trades at just 8 times trailing earnings and slightly below book value. That’s the cheapest shares have been since 2009. BMO also pays a succulent 6% dividend yield, which is about 50% higher than normal.

Imperial Oil

Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO)(NYSEMKT:IMO) has been a stalwart in the Canadian energy sector for more than a century with history dating back to John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. The company has paid consistent dividends for virtually its entire history, since the 1880s.

This dividend king has been undoubtedly hurt by the recent collapse in oil prices, but it easily has the balance sheet strength to survive. Its oil sands operations are among the best in the business, producing some 400,000 barrels of bitumen each day. Long-term reserves are also excellent, exceeding 6 billion barrels. And investors have to like the company’s downstream operations, which include several refineries and an fleet of Esso gas stations. It also provides fuel for Mobil branded stations in Canada.

Imperial Oil hasn’t just paid consistent dividends lately. It has increased its payout for 25 consecutive years. That’s an excellent record. Combine that with the current 3.9% yield and it’s an interesting opportunity.


BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)(NYSE:BCE) was founded in 1880, just a few years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. It paid its first dividend to investors the next year and hasn’t looked back since. That’s a dividend streak of nearly 140 consecutive years for this dividend king.

BCE today looks stronger than ever. The company is the leading telecom provider in Canada, connecting more than 13 million customers to wireless data, cable television, internet, and home phone services. It has customers from coast to coast, too. It also owns a smattering of interesting media assets including top television stations, a collection of radio stations, video streaming service Crave, and pieces of several top sports franchises.

This dividend king also offers an excellent payout today. The current yield is 5.9%, a payout that is supported by earnings. BCE is a mature company today, meaning it can easily afford to pay out most of its cash flow back to investors.

The bottom line on these dividend kings

Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. The smart move is to load up on dividend kings like Bank of Montreal, Imperial Oil, and BCE for your income needs. It’s worked for the last century, and it sure looks good for the next century too.

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Source: – The Motley Fool Canada

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Edited By Harry Miller

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The close: TSX ends lower, crude has best month on record – The Globe and Mail



Canada’s main stock index ended a strong May a little weaker while crude oil prices enjoyed their best ever month, surging 88 per cent.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 69.90 points at 15,192.83. Sectors were mixed, with financials leading decliners with a 2% drop, as investors absorbed a week of earnings reports that featured massive loan loss provisions. Laurentian Bank lost 9.1% after cutting its dividend – the first such move by a major lender in almost three decades.

U.S. stocks finished mostly higher after President Donald Trump announced measures against China in response to new security legislation that were less threatening to the U.S. economy than investors had feared.

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The Dow ended the session slightly lower, but all three indexes registered gains for the month and the week.

The S&P 500 initially extended losses after Trump said he was directing his administration to begin the process of eliminating special treatment for Hong Kong in response to China’s plans to impose new security legislation in the semi-autonomous territory.

But Trump made no mention of any action that could undermine the Phase One trade deal that Washington and Beijing struck early this year, a concern that had cast a cloud over the market throughout the week.

“He began speaking in a very tough tone,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The market was worried he was going to announce something substantial, something detrimental to the U.S. economy. Then, as he spoke, it became clear the actions being taken were not going to be as dramatic as originally feared.”

Trump also said the United States is terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization, something he had threatened to do earlier this month.

S&P 500 technology shares gave the index its biggest boost, while financials were the biggest drag.

The latest confrontation between the U.S. and China has fueled concern that worsening tensions between the two world’s largest economies could derail the recent sharp gains in the stock market.

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Expectations of a quick economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic have driven the S&P 500 up more than 30% from its March lows.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 17.53 points, or 0.07%, to 25,383.11, the S&P 500 gained 14.58 points, or 0.48%, to 3,044.31, and the Nasdaq Composite added 120.88 points, or 1.29%, to 9,489.87.

For the month, the Dow added 3.9%, the S&P 500 gained 4.5%, and the Nasdaq rose 6.8%. For the week, the Dow and S&P 500 each rose more than 3%, and the Nasdaq gained 1.8%.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that New York City is “on track” to enter phase one of reopening on June 8, and he said five upstate regions will now transition to phase two.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, speaking in a webcast organized by Princeton University Friday, reiterated the U.S. central bank’s promise to use its tools to shore up the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Twitter was down 2% and Facebook Inc shares slipped 0.2%, a day after Trump signed an order threatening social media firms with new regulations over free speech.

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Upscale department store chain Nordstrom Inc slumped 11% after it reported a near 40% fall in quarterly sales due to pandemic-led store closures. Inc slipped 3.5% as the cloud-based business software maker cut its annual revenue and profit forecasts.

The July crude contract was up US$1.78 at US$35.49 per barrel and the July natural gas contract was up 2.2 cents at nearly US$1.85 per mmBTU. Futures closed out May with record monthly gains, on hopes that the U.S.-China trade deal would remain intact and on falling crude production.

The August gold contract was up US$23.40 at US$1,751.70 an ounce and the July copper contract was up 1.2 cents at nearly US$2.43 a pound.

Read more: Stocks seeing action Friday – and why

Reuters, The Canadian Press, Globe staff

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Laurentian Bank cuts dividend by 40%




Laurentian Bank slashed its dividend by 40 per cent on Friday, the first such move by a major Canadian lender in almost three decades.

The Montreal-based lender said Friday its profit fell by 79 per cent to $8.9 million, and its provisions for credit losses — the amount of money the bank is setting aside to cover loans that may go bad — soared to $54.9 million. That’s up from $9 million in the same period a year ago.

COVID-19 is throwing uncertainty to the bank’s outlook, so it cut its dividend to 40 cents a share as a precaution. Previously it was 67 cents a share.

“We have a strong capital and liquidity position, and disciplined risk management, but it is a time for prudence,” CEO François Desjardins said. “Although we believe that current earnings are not reflective of the future earnings power of the organisation, we have reduced the dividend to $0.40 per share which improves operational flexibility until we reap the anticipated benefits of our strategic plan.”

The last time a major Canadian bank slashed its dividend was 1992, when National Bank cut the payout to its shareholders.


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Published By Magen Johnson

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