3M to make N95 masks at new Canada facility

US industrial giant 3M will make N95 respirator masks at an expanded facility in Canada for domestic use as well as for export, the government announced Friday.

Officials said it will ensure a secure domestic supply of crucial protective health equipment that had been in short supply at the start of the pandemic as nations competed for the scarce few available.

At a news conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford recalled the “darkest days” of the pandemic when “every country in the world was left scrambling for critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment.”

“There was a worldwide shortage and Canada was left at the mercy of other countries for the PPE we desperately needed,” he said. “We were left in a terrible, terrible situation.”

But no more, he vowed.

Ottawa and the province of Ontario are providing Can$23 million (US$18 million) each to support 3M’s expansion of its Brockville, Ontario facility, while the company has agreed to supply 50 million N95 masks to Canada annually over five years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also on hand for the announcement, added that 3M aims to ship masks from Canada to overseas.

“We will be able to cover domestic supplies,” he said, and because Canada has “never brought in limits or protectionist measures” masks will also be exported.

“Our products can help the world as well,” he said.

In April, US President Donald Trump had attacked 3M for not shifting all distribution back home and invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act against the company.

Trudeau had pushed back against Trump’s pressure on 3M, saying it would be a mistake to reduce cross-border trade in medical goods during the crisis.

The company responded that it would continue to sell masks to Canada and Latin America.

Its Canadian plant is scheduled to be up and running early next year. (AFP)

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