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FPAC calls on Trudeau to recognize forestry as essential in Canada


March 23, 2020
By Maria Church
Maria Church
Forest Products Association of Canada president and CEO Derek Nighbor.

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) is calling on the federal government to recognize the sector as “essential and critical” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, FPAC president and CEO Derek Nighbor requested that Canada follow the U.S.’s lead and add forest products to its list of essential critical infrastructure workers.

 

The full letter is below:

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Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Let me begin by commending you and your government for your swift action in responding to the current COVID-19 crisis. Please know that you have the full support of Canada’s forest products sector to step up as part of this Team Canada effort to help keep Canadians safe and to work together on response and recovery.

During these challenging days, and for the days ahead, it is important that Canadian forest sector operations be recognized as essential and critical infrastructure. This will enable us to do our work safely and securely, with certainty, in order to produce and deliver products that Canadians want and need – from building materials to biomass for power generation; from food and pharmaceutical packaging to paper towels and toilet paper.

The health and safety of Canada’s forest sector workers is our top priority. Across our industry in recent weeks, we have seen a host of important risk mitigation measures implemented at Canadian mill sites, including but not limited to:

  • Adoption of ‘work from home’ measures for those who are able to, and no group gatherings
  • Implementation of systems to support employees facing potential cases of COVID-19 and/or individuals in self-quarantine within the workforce
  • Modifying shift schedules to reduce employee contact between shifts and implementation of social distancing operations-wide
  • Managing break, lunch, and dinner times to ensure a 2 metre distance between staff members
  • Suspending international travel and significant restrictions on domestic travel
  • Restrictions on visitors; thorough screening of on site contractors, and deliveries
  • Ramped up sanitation and hygiene measures across facilities, common areas, and all surfaces
  • Crisis management teams activated and Frequently Asked Questions documents produced to help support staff

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added forest products to its list of essential critical infrastructure workers. In yesterday’s directive, DHS declared manufacturers of “tissue and paper towel products” as essential, as well as manufacturers of “food packaging” and “workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products including, but not limited to, timber, paper, and other wood products”. FPAC is requesting that a similar declaration be made here in Canada.

While we recognize and fully support the need to curtail and suspend non- essential service and manufacturing sectors in order to effectively combat the spread of COVID-19, our member companies provide critical products that are needed by the Canadian public and we are urgently requesting that our sector be recognized as such. With your support, we commit to continuing this important work with the health, safety, and wellness of forest sector workers as the top priority.

On behalf of Canada’s forest products sector, a $73.6 billion a year industry operating in more than 600 forest-dependent communities from coast to coast, and directly employing 230,000 Canadians across the country, you can count on us to continue to be a strong partner in these extraordinary circumstances.

I would be pleased to discuss these issues with you further and answer any questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Derek Nighbor
President and CEO