Conspiracy Theories Force Grieving Refugee Dad to Prove Son's COVID Death

A refugee father had to publicly confirm his son's passing from COVID-19 in Canada after online conspiracy theories sought to cast doubt on the teenager's cause of death.

Yassin Dabeh, 19, died of the coronavirus on Thursday at his home in the Canadian city of London, according to local media. His passing marked the youngest COVID-19 death in Canada's Ontario province. The young man, who worked as a cleaner at a long-term care facility, had contracted COVID-19 in early January.

Following Dabeh's passing, conspiracy theories claiming the teenager had died by suicide or a drug overdose emerged on social media. Internet users alleged a cover-up and attributed the claims to Dabeh's family without presenting evidence. Many pushed long-circulating misinformation on a deliberate inflation of official coronavirus death numbers.

On Tuesday, Yassin Dabeh's father Ahmad held a virtual press conference on Zoom in an effort to set the record straight.

Speaking in Arabic through an interpreter, Ahmad Dabeh said the family was "distraught" by the rumors, expressing disbelief at the claims made by people who "were not there at the time of his death and were not there to watch him struggle with COVID-19."

In the days leading up to his son's death, Ahmad said Yassin complained of chest pains, breathing difficulties and soreness in his body.

The grieving father asked the public to "stop spreading these lies, and to respect [Yassin's] passing and allow him to rest in peace."

Dabeh's parents were forced to miss their son's burial, Ahmad said, as they had also contracted the virus.

The Dabeh family arrived in Canada as refugees from Syria in 2016, Canadian media reported. Dabeh's death elicited discussions over a lack of adequate protections for essential workers and vulnerable communities in Canada.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada's New Democratic Party, tweeted Dabeh "fled a war" and was "hopeful of his future" in Canada, until he was failed by "a system where communities made vulnerable due to poverty, racism & neglect are being hit hardest."

During a parliamentary session this week, Singh criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for spending time preparing for a possible 2021 election "when he should be spending all of his time protecting Canadians by making sure everyone has access to a vaccine."

Out of Canada's 10 provinces, Ontario has the highest total number of COVID-19 cases at 258,700. Despite securing more vaccines per capita than any other country, the Canadian government faced criticism for its slow rollout. An international shortage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine posed another snag for Canada's inoculation campaign, as the country is not due to receive any shipment this week.

Yassin Dabeh was a Syrian refugee

He fled a war & sought refuge in Canada

He was hopeful of his future, until the system failed him

A system where communities made vulnerable due to poverty, racism & neglect are being hit hardest

Rest in power Yasin ♥️ pic.twitter.com/Of6VdcY3HP

— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) January 26, 2021
Canadian health workers speak with woman
Health care workers speak with an elderly woman at a Covid-19 assessment center in London, Ontario, on March 17, 2020. A 19-year-old London care home worker became Ontario's youngest Covid-19 death this month. GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images