November 4, 2020
Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg MB—The Pallister government has once again failed Early Childhood Educators and the families who rely on them by distributing non-medical grade masks that don’t meet public health standards.
“The Pallister government has repeatedly failed to protect Early Childhood Educators and the children they care for throughout this pandemic,” said NDP MLA for Notre Dame Malaya Marcelino. “After months of causing chaos within the sector, now the province is handing out cheap masks that don’t protect essential workers. The message is clear: safe child care for Manitoba families is just not a priority for this government.”
Last week early learning and child care providers in the Winnipeg area received a memo from the provincial government mandating that all staff in child care centres must wear a medicalgrade mask until public health removes the requirement. The memo stipulates that masks are not required for child care homes “because the number of children being cared for is much smaller”.
Child care centre directors reached out to the NDP Official Opposition with concerns after seeing that the provided masks were accompanied with a warning that they were not medicalgrade. Some directors have shelved the masks, opting instead to pay out of pocket for masks that are approved by Health Canada.
Lois Coward, Director at Niigaanaki Day Care Centre was also made aware the masks were not medical-grade.
“My staff deserve the best quality protection possible and its disappointing the province doesn’t seem to agree. As a Director, I should be able to rely on the province to provide high quality masks that meet public health standards and keep my staff and kids safe. Instead, I’ve had to figure it out on my own.”
The revelation comes after media reports that the province is the subject of a lawsuit from a Minnesota-based company centered around poor quality N95 masks procured by the Manitoba government. The company claims they entered into a purchase agreement with Manitoba in April but were denied $6 million worth of product after Manitoba mistakenly ordered masks that were not approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and could not be used in hospitals.
Danielle Adams, NDP Critic for Early Learning and Child Care noted the Public Health Agency of Canada has also updated its recommendations that Canadians wear masks with three layers and a filter.
“The Pallister government has clearly struggled to procure high quality, medical-grade masks for health care workers already and now they have failed Early Childhood Educators,” said Adams. “Now is not the time for mistakes like this. The province should immediately recall the inferior masks and distribute approved, medical-grade masks to every centre.”