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August 7, 2020

We need made-in-Canada N95 respirators

Coronavirus
covid19
Occupational Health & Safety

The following is a letter sent to The Hon. Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, on August 7, 2020, from CFNU President Linda Silas. 

Dear Minister Anand,

On behalf of the close to 200,000 nurses and nursing students represented by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, I am writing to request that the federal government ensure that sufficient amounts of N95 respirators are manufactured here at home to meet the needs of Canada’s frontline health care workers.

Given the current shortage of N95 respirators – a critical piece of personal protective equipment for health care workers battling this global pandemic – we expect our governments to move urgently to properly protect those on the front lines, caring for COVID-19 patients. Nurses are putting their lives at risk every day to serve their communities; governments ought to do everything in their power to minimize that risk.

One initiative your government should support is found right here at home, at the GM plant in Oshawa. While we welcome your government’s decision to have GM manufacture personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers, we are disappointed by the contract’s failure to require the production of N95 respirators. Just across the border, at the GM plant in Warren, Michigan, N95 respirators are being manufactured alongside level-1 masks. Why is this not the case in Canada?

There are thousands of highly skilled workers in Oshawa who were laid off because of GM’s decision to end automobile manufacturing at their plant. These workers deserve to find skilled work that brings value to their lives and to their community. That is why I am joining with these workers and other allies in the community in calling on your government to ensure that N95 respirators are manufactured at the GM plant. This ought to be a permanent operation, which can provide meaningful, stable and green jobs for the community.

With widespread and growing concerns about a second wave of COVID-19, and an expanding body of research pointing to airborne spread as a likely mode of transmission, it is incumbent upon us to be rapidly producing N95 respirators domestically.

At present, Canada is quite simply failing in its duty to protect health care workers. Nationally, health care workers account for one-fifth (21.5%) of our COVID-19 cases. By contrast, the global average infection rate for health care workers stands at 7%, according to the International Council of Nurses.

Canada can and must do better.

Sincerely,

Linda Silas
CFNU President

cc: Hassan Yussuff, President, Canadian Labour Congress
Patty Coates, President, Ontario Federation of Labour
Jerry Dias, President, Unifor
Tiffany Balducci, President, Durham Region Labour Council
Vicki McKenna, President, Ontario Nurses Association
Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
Tony Leah, Green Jobs Oshawa
Rebecca Keetch, Green Jobs Oshawa