Jeanne Kugiza Ivara follows in the footsteps of her late father by studying natural sciences at CEGEP.
“My dad was the best dad I could ever ask for,” she said. “He was someone who really meant a lot to me.”
She said she wished he was still there to help her with her studies, but Désiré Buna Ivara died in 2020 – just before getting his doctorate. The 50-year-old spent a month in a coma after contracting COVID-19 from his wife, Amoti Furaha Lusi.
Furaha Lusi said she caught the virus while working in a long-term care home as the first wave of the pandemic swept through the province, hitting seniors’ residences particularly hard.
She is now claiming $2.2 million in compensation for the loss of her husband, accusing the West Island Health Agency of Montreal, the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île- de-Montréal, of not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Residential Center Foyer Dorval where she worked.
Furaha Lusi’s lawsuit, filed last week, also names a manager and co-worker who she says ignored the signs and put her in danger.
“There is a big void in our house, in my heart, among my children,” she said. “My husband really leaves a void.”
Alone with 6 children
Furaha Lusi was left alone, pregnant and with five children at the time of her husband’s death. Her youngest is now two years old.
According to the lawsuit, on or about March 31, 2020, the plaintiff noticed that her colleague was exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19, namely a cough, nasal congestion and severe fatigue that required her to lie down.
This was after he took two or three days off due to illness, according to the suit, and Furaha Lusi asked his boss to remove the man from work. His boss refused, according to the lawsuit, and then reassured Furaha Lusi that he would not keep someone at work if it put others at risk.
“He told me: ‘Don’t worry, everything is fine’,” Furaha Lusi said.
The move exposed Furaha Lusi to the virus, according to the lawsuit. The man was not sent home until days later after the union got involved, the lawsuit says.
Then, on April 6, Furaha Lusi showed symptoms. A day later, her family also showed signs. They all tested positive and self-isolated in accordance with government guidelines, the lawsuit says.
About five days later, Ivara was taken to hospital where he later died.
The lawsuit claims that the Furaha Lusi manager ignored his legal obligations by keeping the sick employee on the job and that the CIUSSS was not doing enough to enforce Quebec Public Health directives.
Seeking a better life in Canada
Ivara had immigrated to Quebec from Congo in 2004, hoping to improve her family’s life. His wife and eldest children joined him a few years later and the family settled in Deux-Montagnes, 40 kilometers northwest of Montreal.
“He really wanted to build his life here,” said Furaha Lusi, a month after her husband’s death. “He really had the Canadian dream.”
The plaintiffs suffered immeasurable financial, moral and emotional harm as a result of the defendants’ faults, the suit says.
“First and foremost, we would like to offer our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones,” said Hélène Bergeron-Gamache, spokesperson for the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal. .
Beyond that, she said the CIUSSS would not comment further as the matter is now before the courts.
Local 2881 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said in a statement that “we are heartbroken by the terrible loss” that Fuhara Lusi and his family have suffered. The union said it set up an online fundraising campaign that raised $118,895 for the family.
None of Fuhara Lusi’s claims have been proven in court.
As for Jeanne, who managed to graduate from high school with honors despite her loss, she said she hopes the trial will help the world see what her family has been through since her father’s death and how management did not listen to her mother’s concerns.
“My mother is alone,” she said, but her siblings watch over each other, trying not to focus on their sadness – a sadness, she added, that they will carry for all time.
“We really try to be nice and kind to each other, instead of always talking about all this sadness that’s happened in our family.”
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