Last May, GM Canada entered an agreement with the Government of Canada to produce 10 million face masks as it looked to ramp up mask production amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, nearly one year later, the automaker has fulfilled the federal government’s large facemask order
GM Canada has been producing roughly one million facemasks per month over the past ten months in a section of its Oshawa Assembly plant that was converted for mask production with the help of roughly 60 union-represented production workers. It produced its final facemask for the government this week, but GM Canada isn’t done producing facemasks just yet. The automaker says it will now produce nearly 500,000 additional masks that will be distributed to its nearly 450 dealers across Canada. These dealers will then donate the masks to local charities of their choice, helping to deliver even more medical-grade masks to areas where they are most needed in Canada.
“We want to thank the Government of Canada, our suppliers, and our Unifor partners for their support in making this project possible,” GM Canada president Scott Bell said in a statement. “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 automaker first received its Medical Device Establishment License from Health Canada on April 22nd, 2020, allowing it to begin production of the medical-grade facemasks. Over the next three weeks, the automaker sourced the required facemask materials, built a clean room with enhanced safety protocols inside Oshawa Assembly and installed the required mask-making equipment – all during the difficult and daunting time that was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The commitment GM made to produce 10 million masks was an extraordinary demonstration of an organization stepping up to help our country when we need it the most,” Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this week. “I am also grateful to GM’s Oshawa workers who have a long history of answering the call. Whether it’s producing aircraft fuselages and military transport vehicles to support our troops during the Second World War or making medical masks for our front line heroes today, their quality work and sense of pride continues to shape our great city and we thank them.”
Oshawa Assembly was the perfect candidate for mask production, as the facility had been sitting dormant since vehicle production ended there in late 2019. The sprawling Southern Ontario production facility won’t sit empty for much longer, though, with GM set to begin producing both light- and heavy-duty pickup trucks there from early 2022 onward. GM is investing $1.3 billion CAD into Oshawa Assembly to prepare it for pickup production and expects pickup production to bring between 1,400 to 1,700 jobs to the region once back up and running at full capacity next year.