Top Issues – COVID-19
Canadian Armed Forces support to Whole-of-Government response to COVID-19
- Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Canadian Armed Forces has contributed to whole-of-government efforts in response to COVID-19.
- The Canadian Armed Forces played a critical role in initial response efforts, including repatriating Canadians from outbreak epicentres across the world and housing returnees at CFB Trenton for their quarantine.
- When it became clear that COVID-19 posed a serious threat within Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces answered the call.
- This support included responses to Requests for Assistance across the country, to include logistical support to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
- The Canadian Rangers were also active across Canada, where they provided assistance to northern and Indigenous communities.
- Most notably, the Canadian Armed Forces helped provincial partners support some of our most vulnerable populations in long-term care facilities.
- Looking ahead, the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to remain responsive to new challenges that emerge as a result of COVID-19.
- National Defence stands ready to provide support to federal, provincial, and territorial partners in response to COVID-19, while also maintaining operational readiness abroad.
Operation GLOBE activities:
- The Canadian Armed Forces assisted in the repatriation and quarantine of a total of 870 individuals at CFB Trenton, and the NAVCENTRE, Cornwall.
- The CAF delivered over 180,000 lbs of medical supplies into Latin America and the Caribbean between July 23rd and August 3rd, 2020
Operation LASER activities:
- Through Op LASER, approximately 1,700 CAF members deployed to support long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario.
- A total of 47 facilities in Quebec
- A total of 7 facilities in Ontario
- Another 30 CAF members assisted Public Health Ontario in conducting contact tracing over a 71 day period, establishing contact with 1536 individuals.
- CAF infrastructure was used to house testing equipment, distribute essential medical equipment domestically, and transport personal protective equipment samples for testing in the US.
- Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel are sometimes asked to help other Canadian federal departments with various tasks or to participate in Government of Canada activities abroad. When these tasks involve working outside of Canada, Canadian Armed Forces personnel deploy under Operation GLOBE.
- As a part of Operation LASER, the CAF provided support to Government of Canada objectives and requests for assistance.
- This included support in long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario by assisting with day-to-day operations, helping with the coordination and provision of medical care, and providing general support.
Northern and Indigenous Communities
- In the COVID-19 environment our Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups remain ready to support community leaders and provincial and territorial COVID-19 awareness programs. The Rangers will also help identify potential emerging demands of the communities in which they operate.
Recent parliamentary and media interest
- There has been sustained media and parliamentary interest in all aspects of the Canadian Armed Forces' support to whole-of-government efforts in response to COVID-19, particularly the CAF's role in repatriating Canadians from overseas and the CAF's more recent deployment to long-term care facilities.
- On February 5, 2020 and February 26, 2020, National Defence officials appeared before the House Standing Committee on Health (HESA) to provide testimony on the CAF's role in the medical screening and repatriation of Canadians.
- On June 26, 2020 National Defence officials appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology to provide testimony on the CAF's role in the government's response to COVID-19.
- On July 20, 2020 the House Standing Committee on Health passed a motion for the production of papers, requesting documents from National Defense on CAF support to long-term care facilities in Ontario.
Canadian Armed Forces assistance to Long Term Care Facilities
- The Canadian Armed Forces always stands ready to support Canadians in their time of need.
- That is why we rapidly mobilized 1,700 personnel to provide support to long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario during the pandemic.
- Over two and a half months, the Canadian Armed Forces made a difference in a total of 54 Long Term Care Facilities – 47 in Quebec and 7 in Ontario.
- We also ensured our members were properly supported, trained, and equipped throughout every stage of their deployment.
- As of August 6, 2020, the Canadian Armed Forces completed transitioning Long Term Care Facilities support to the Canadian Red Cross.
If pressed on the Health Committee's Motion to Produce Papers
- We stand ready to provide all relevant documents detailing the Canadian Armed Forces' involvement in Ontario Long Term Care Facilities.
- The documents highlight the professionalism, efficiency, and integrity of the Canadian Armed Forces throughout this unprecedented deployment.
- They also demonstrate our members' willingness, capability, and compassion in responding to the needs of vulnerable Canadians in a time of crisis.
Location of CAF assistance in Long Term Care Facilities:
- Quebec: CAF personnel worked with provincial partners to deliver support in a total 47 facilities in and around Montreal.
- 35 facilities on the island of Montreal
- 5 facilities on the south shore of Montreal
- 7 facilities in Laval
- Ontario: CAF personnel worked with provincial partners to deliver support in a total of 7 facilities in and around Toronto.
- 2 facilities in North York
- 1 facility in Brampton
- 1 facility in Etobicoke
- 1 facility in Pickering
- 1 facility in Scarborough
- 1 facility in Woodbridge
- COVID-19 cases within the CAF population providing support in LTCF
- Total: 55 cases
- Active: 0
- Resolved: 55
Recent parliamentary and media interest
- When the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) were deployed to Long Term Care Facilities (LTCFs), there was sustained parliamentary and media interest in the CAF's support to facilities in Quebec and Ontario.
- At the time, both the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party urged the Government to maintain CAF personnel at LTCFs.
- Specifically, the Bloc Quebecois called on the Government to accept the Provincial Government of Quebec's request to extend CAF support in these facilities until September.
- During the CAF deployment, the media interest focused on the health and well-being of CAF personnel deployed to LTCFs, including rates of testing and infection among CAF members, as well as the possibility of hazard pay.
- Following the public release of CAF reports on resident care in these facilities, media articles commended CAF members for exposing the severity of issues in these homes.
Canadian Armed Forces assistance to long term care facilities
- As part of the whole-of-government response to help Canadians in the context of COVID‑19, the CAF supported civilian authorities in Quebec and in Ontario, as agreed between the provincial and federal governments.
- Members deployed in Long Term Care Facilities in Quebec and Ontario worked collaboratively with their provincial partners and with medical staff in the homes to maintain staffing levels and help with infection control and prevention. They provided assistance with the day-to-day operations, helped with the coordination and provision of medical care, and provided general support at the identified facilities.
- In the course of their duties in Ontario LTCFs, CAF personnel observed issues with the provision of care to residents in these facilities. Personnel shared their observations with the managing authorities of the facilities in which they have been deployed, and took immediate steps to remedy issues they observed. The reported issues related to:
- Non-adherence to policies;
- Inadequate training and medical supplies for facility staff;
- Deficiencies in long-term care infrastructure; and,
- Concerns with standards of care.
Canadian Armed Forces Stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Stockpiles of medical-grade personal protective equipment remained stable in February 2020 and fluctuated in March 2020, as the Canadian Armed Forces responded to the pandemic.
- Since then, we have acquired additional supplies of medical-grade personal protective equipment – or PPE – for the Canadian Armed Forces.
- This medical grade PPE is distributed weekly and as required to our Canadian Forces Health Services medical establishments.
- National Defence continues to closely monitor these stockpile levels to ensure that the military has the equipment it needs to carry out its important work in support of Canadians.
- As of October 16, 2020: Canadian Forces Health Services Group medical grade stockpile held:
- 446,536 gowns;
- 1,618,950 surgical masks;
- 89,213 N95 masks;
- 2,177,285 medical-grade gloves; and
- 98,808 face shields.
- Between November 1, 2019, and February, 29, 2020, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) stockpile of medical-grade personal protective equipment contained approximately 4,800 gowns, 2,000,000 surgical masks, 145,000 N95 masks, 2,047,700 pairs of gloves, and 3,200 face shields.
- Work continues through governmental procurement specialists to identify and procure additional PPE stockpile; however, worldwide shortages pose continuing challenges across Canada.
- Stockpiled medical-grade personal protective equipment levels fluctuated during the month of March, as the CAF provided support to the Canadian repatriation efforts through Operation GLOBE, adopted measures to protect personnel and to maintain effective operational capabilities during the pandemic.
Recent media and parliamentary interest
- There has been sustained media and parliamentary interest in overall Government-wide levels of personal protective equipment, including multiple Order Paper Questions on Whole-of-Government and National Defence stockpiles.
- Several Parliamentary Committees have also requested information on Government-wide levels of PPE through Motions to Produce Papers, and multiple questions to senior officials during Committee appearances.
COVID-19 and the Defence Team
- Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, National Defence has taken steps to protect the entire Defence Team – both Canadian Armed Forces members and civilian personnel.
- When it comes to the safety and security of our people, each decision we make is based on the sound advice of public health authorities and the Canadian Armed Forces' Surgeon General.
- We have consistently integrated public health measures, including physical distancing, non-medical masks, and hygiene measures into our daily operations.
- We have also reduced personnel in National Defence buildings, and we are working with IT to expand the availability of secure remote access for those working from home.
- National Defence will continue to monitor the situation closely and adapt as required to ensure the Defence Team is protected, so we can fulfil our mandate to keep Canadians safe.
- Additional measures taken to ensure the safety of the Defence Team:
- The Canadian Armed Forces is currently making available immunizations for members against influenza as a way to reduce pressure on civilian and military health care systems;
- All members are also encouraged to download the COVID Alert app as an additional layer of protection;
- Approximately 50% of the civilian workforce is working primarily from home; and
- Defence Team members working from the office are appropriately tracked in order to allow leaders and managers to rapidly respond to any COVID-19 cases that may arise.
Remote working posture
- The Defence Team is leveraging new ways of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. A variety of tools, resources, and information are available to assist civilian employees, managers, and members of the military.
- National Defence provides a wealth of resources for the Defence Team working remotely, including guides for managing remote working, directives on device and IT security, and support systems for any technical issues.
- National Defence has been a leader in mobilizing quickly to ensure its dispersed/varied/remote workforce is properly equipped, managers are supported with tools and guidance, and technology is available to enable access and collaboration.
- 12,800 civilian employees have completed a Flexible Work Agreement form, agreeing that they are at home, equipped, working productively and aware of safety and security obligations.
- In line with public health guidance for gradual resumption of business across Canada, National Defence has assessed its Business Resumption Plan to determine the required steps and conditions for resuming work. This plan is continuously being evaluated as the circumstances of the pandemic change.
- Mental health care and psychosocial support for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members is continuing in all of our Canadian Forces Health Services Centres.
- Care options for CAF members have expanded to include to virtual care in which the patients have the option to remain at home and speak to the care provider on the phone or by videoconferencing
- For those visiting a CAF clinic in person, measures are in place to follow physical distancing and other infection prevention and control practices.
- National Defence has continued to support the mental wellness of its employees with resources such as the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program phone line, website resources such as LifeSpeak and other links found on the Defence Team COVID-19 website.
- The COVID-19 stance has led to innovative and increased promotion of mental health resources along with expanded online access. This enhanced service has facilitated quick and easy access to mental health information for DND personnel.
- In addition to mental health services, other essential health services are maintained by maximizing the use of technology to support physical distancing and other public health measures.
- Online programming was launched to provide virtual Recreation, Health Promotion, Fitness, Soldier On and Special Operations Forces program to support the CAF and their families maintain a healthy, fit and ready Force.
- The re-opening of fitness, sport and mess facilities have followed departmental procedures and aligned with regional and territorial public health authorities.
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