GM Canada Produces 10 Million Face Masks

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Since the start of production on May 26, 2020, the team at Oshawa Operations produced approximately one million masks a month to help protect front-line workers and other Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: GM Canada

GM Canada fulfilled its commitment to the Government of Canada to produce 10 million face masks at cost for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Since the start of production on May 26, 2020, the team, at Oshawa Operations produced approximately one million masks a month to help protect front-line workers and other Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to thank the Government of Canada, our suppliers, and our Unifor partners for their support in making this project possible,” said Scott Bell, GM Canada president and managing director.

“Although this milestone marks the end of our contract with Health Canada, GM will leverage the speed and agility of our pandemic response to continue supporting our customers and communities.”

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said: “Canada was in need of PPE, and GM Canada stepped up to be part of the solution by contributing to Canada’s domestic capacity for crucial face masks. I want to thank GM Canada, its workers and Unifor, for playing an important part in Canada’s fight against COVID-19. You are tremendous examples of Canadian kindness and ingenuity.”

Unifor’s National President, Jerry Dias, said, “When Health Canada needed masks urgently to fight the spread of COVID-19, our members were proud to get to work and ramp up production quickly, and these highly skilled workers have shown that they can adapt and step up when needed.”

“This project shows what we can accomplish when the union, government and the employer work together to collaborate, and should the Government of Canada require further orders, Unifor members are ready, willing and able to resume mask production if called upon.”

Commemorating the historic project

To commemorate the Canadian Mask Making (CMM) Room project, the official 10-millionth mask will be donated to the Ingenium, Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation in Ottawa.

Since March 2020, Ingenium’s Curating Under Quarantine Initiative has been working with a variety of Canadian industries (nuclear, aviation, agriculture, production and manufacturing, and public transportation) to document how these companies, associations, and providers have pivoted and responded to the pandemic.

As part of their research, the museums have been working closely with GM Canada to document the Canadian Mask Making effort.

“This documentation work is critically important in shaping our ability to understand the first year of COVID-19 in Canada and capture the different ways in which industry has responded and adapted,” said Emily Gann, Curator, National Resources and Industrial Technologies.

“Working with GM Canada to preserve stories from the CMM also enables us to be able to share this history with future generations who have not lived through this moment.”

In addition, GM Canada and their dealers will donate masks to charities across Canada.

After fulfilling its obligation to the Canadian Government, GM Canada will produce nearly 500,000 additional masks that will be distributed to its nearly 450 dealers. In turn, dealers will donate the masks to local charities of their choice.

“I’m proud to be associated with GM Canada and the work they did to protect Canadians as we continue through these challenging times,” said Mary Nurse, owner of Nurse Chevrolet in Whitby, Ontario.”

“Because dealerships like mine have such deep connections to our local communities, we have seen firsthand how the pandemic has affected so many charitable organizations and the people they serve.”

Applying “mask speed” to full-sized truck launch

GM Canada received its Medical Device Establishment License from Health Canada on April 22, 2020, and in just over three weeks with support from GM’s global supply chain, the company sourced materials, built the clean room with enhanced safety protocols, installed the required equipment, and recalled and trained 60 workers for two shifts of production in Oshawa in partnership with Unifor.

The first mask delivered to the government was produced on May 26, 2020.

The team at Oshawa Assembly is preparing the plant for full-sized pickup production.

Announced in November 2020, the plant will receive an investment of C$ 1.3 billion to build a new body shop and flexible assembly module with intention of starting production in January 2022.

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