A new facility on Manitoulin Island is providing a made-in-Canada solution to meet the soaring demand for personal protective equipment (PPE).

The PPE production facility is located in Wiikwemkoong and is producing medical-grade masks that are being distributed all over the country. So far, it's created 50 new full time jobs.

"Through a lot of our strategic planning discussions on how to create economic development here in Wiikwemkoong, we have aspired to create an industrial park and as the old adage goes, if you build it they will come," said Duke Peltier, Chief of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.

The facility is the result of a partnership between Wiikwemkoong, First Nation Procurement Inc., and Dent-X Canada.

"We are making the three-ply surgical masks here now, that is what they are making behind me there," said Jimmy Emms the owner of Dent-X Canada. "In two weeks, they will be able to be making the N-95 here ... The N-95 machines are here, they are just being calibrated and we are doing our final testing of the masks."

The factory is the first facility to move into the new industrial park in Wiikwemkoong.

"The bottom line is Indigenous people are contributing towards the protection of all Canadians," said Matthew Owl, president of FN Procurement Inc. "And I think it's through the cross-cultural partnerships that we have that we are celebrating today, we will see more industry taking notice of First Nation communities."

A second mask making facility will soon be opening on the Sagamok First Nation to meet the high demand for masks to protect people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's so awesome to see such a huge business like this on First Nation communities and I want to thank and congratulate the partners who partnered up with Wiikwemkoong to have the trust to bring such a huge business onto to First Nation land," said Chief Glen Hare of the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council.

The Chief of Wiikwemkoong said the new facility is another step towards the goal the territory has to become more economically independent and self-reliant.