‘Millions of masks’ expected to land in Canada as 3M faces pressure over equipment exports

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is due to receive a shipment of “millions of masks” in the coming days, as a major medical device manufacturer remains under continued pressure from the United States to cease its exports of the protective equipment. 

“We’re working around the clock to get Canada the resources we need,” Trudeau said during his daily address to Canadians Saturday. “In the next 48 hours, we will be receiving a shipment of millions of masks by a chartered cargo flight. We are also working with provinces to transport their medical supplies when possible.”

Trudeau added that items ordered by the province of Quebec will arrive on the flight. 

The news comes as Minnesota-based company 3M revealed Friday that because of the Trump administration’s invocation of the Defence Production Act — which allows the president to boost industrial production of critically needed goods — the manufacturer is under orders not to send U.S.-made masks to other countries, including Canada. 

In a statement, 3M said that halting such exports could adversely affect America’s own supply if other countries choose to retaliate, prompting President Donald Trump to reveal that his administration was “not at all happy” with the company.

Trudeau addressed the dispute during his Friday briefing, stating that failing to send supplies destined for Canada “could end up hurting Americans as much as it hurts anybody else.” 

But the prime minister said Saturday that he wasn’t seeking retaliatory measures against the U.S. — such as blocking Canadian nurses from Windsor, Ont., from travelling across the American border to Detroit.

“We are not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive. We know that it is in both of our interests to continue to work collaboratively and co-operatively,” Trudeau said.

He added that his government is “continuing to engage in constructive discussions with different levels within the [Trump] administration” to preserve the flow of goods and services across U.S.-Canada border.

Dispute comes as stark provincial projections released

Concerns over Canada’s stock of medical goods and protective equipment came as projections of COVID-19’s spread in the province of Ontario were revealed on Friday.

Provincial health experts predict the virus could take the lives of 3,000 to 15,000 Ontarians over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, which could last for 18 months to two years.

“Had we done nothing, Ontario may have suffered 100,000 deaths,” said Dr. Peter Donnelly, who leads Public Health Ontario. “Thankfully, that is not the position we are in.”

The projections also indicated that in Ontario, COVID-19 has a 16 per cent mortality rate for people over the age of 80 — just below global levels of around 20 per cent.

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