UVic political scientist wants B.C. pulp mills to help produce masks, gowns

Claire Cutler says Canada needs to become self-sufficient when manufacturing PPE

A University of Victoria political scientist wants to see Canada become self-sufficient in manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) as the current purchasing is taking place in a “highly fractured, complex, competitive market that lacks transparency.”

According to Claire Cutler, fraud and piracy are occurring in the market through predatory pricing, fraudulent and defective supplies, and with shipments sometimes disappearing altogether. She adds that this “wild west” scenario makes countries such as Canada, vulnerable to not being able to secure adequate PPE to meet the demand of the pandemic.

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READ ALSO: Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Cutler explains how the opacity and complexity of the PPE market make supply-chain tracing almost impossible.

“There are multiple legal jurisdictions involved when PPE is being moved, for instance, from China to Canada. And it is often difficult to determine exactly where a breach of contract occurred, in order to enforce contractual obligations,” she said in a press release from UVic.

Cutler’s research examines the extent to which supply-chain contracts advance human and workers’ rights, environmental sustainability and are capable of advancing corporate social responsibility. She says the federal and provincial governments in Canada need to make becoming self-sufficient in producing PPE a priority.

Currently, Canada – and most of the world – receives the majority of its PPE from China.

Cutler wants to see the government provide incentives so PPE can be produced locally, adding there is an absence of any long-term strategic planning by successive federal governments in securing the supply of PPE and other medical supplies.

A start, she says, would be reopening pulp mills in B.C., in order to produce the pulp needed for masks and gown productions.

”This could be an exciting opportunity for Canada and B.C. to develop a new industry that would allow us to be self-sufficient and possibly become a major global supplier of masks and gowns,” she says.

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