Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory Anishinaabe-made medical grade masks will be shipped across Canada. (Screen capture courtesy FirstTel Communications Corp., via Northern Ontario Business)
A new mask manufacturing facility on Wiikwemkoong territory — a First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario — is the result of a collaboration between the community, Dent-X Canada, and First Nations Procurement Inc.
The community celebrated the official grand opening of the FN95 mask-producing plant on November 26, reported Northern Ontario Business. Medical-grade masks will be shipped to clients across Canada, including CanaPHEM and the Canadian Cancer Society.
“We’re very proud of the fact that the protective equipment that is being made here is Canada- and Ontario-made,” Wiikwemkoong Chief Duke Peltier told Northern Ontario Business. “It’s also Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory Anishinaabe-made, something we can all be proud of as we move forward together toward economic recovery and prosperity.”
The business is the first tenant in the community’s new industrial park. The new facility will create 50 jobs for island residents, while empowering individual self-sovereignty and greater community self-reliance.
“Like all other Ontarians, our Anishinaabe citizens appreciate the security of a full-time job and all the benefits,” Peltier said. “Who doesn’t want or need a regular paycheck?”
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dent-X Canada, which specializes in producing digital radiology equipment, pivoted to producing face shields and masks.
Dent-X will also have a plant in production in nearby Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation.
The Indigenous and corporate partnerships represent the power of cross-government collaboration.
Projects like these are essential in “laying the foundation for building First Nation economies together,” Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald said. “I’m hopeful and optimistic that this will be the beginning of a true and successful partnership between Wiikwemkoong and the corporate world. Your community’s taking the lead on creating a long-term and impactful venture not only during the pandemic, but into the future.”