Top issues - COVID-19

Canadian Armed Forces support to Whole-of-government response to COVID-19

  • Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, the Canadian Armed Forces have been actively contributing to whole-of-government efforts in response to COVID-19.
  • In fact, Canadian Armed Forces members played a critical role in initial response efforts.
    • For example, Canadian Armed Forces members helped repatriate Canadians from outbreak epicentres across the world.
    • They also housed returnees at CFB Trenton for a period of medical observation.
  • When it became clear that COVID-19 may pose a serious threat within Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces answered the call to help Canadians.
    • To this end, we mobilized 24,000 Regular and Reserve Force members to respond to calls for help.
    • This included over 1,200 Rangers on standby to support the unique needs of northern and Indigenous communities across the country.
    • Canadian Rangers also responded to Request for Assistance across Canada, setting-up temporary testing facilities, providing maintenance support, conducting wellness checks, and delivering food in remote regions.
    • The Canadian Armed Forces supported the Public Health Agency of Canada with advice and direct support in contracting, warehousing, and distribution of critical medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment.
    • The Canadian Armed Forces also provided medical support to Ministry of Health, on behalf of Ministry of Health, Ontario, on contact tracing efforts.
  • Currently, the Canadian Armed Forces are helping provincial partners support some of our most vulnerable populations.
    • Up to 1,200 personnel have been providing assistance to residents in long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario.
    • These members are working collaboratively with medical staff in the homes to maintain staffing levels and help with infection control and prevention.
  • Looking ahead, the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to remain responsive to any new challenges that emerge as a result of COVID-19 so that we can continue to help Canadians in need.

Key Facts

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.

Operation LASER activities:

  • CAF personnel have assisted in a total of 50 Long Term Care Facilities:
    • A total of 43 in Quebec
    • A total of 7 in Ontario.

Details

Recent parliamentary and media interest

  • There has been sustained media and parliamentary interest in all aspects of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)’s 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 in Ontario and Quebec.
  • 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.

Operation GLOBE

  • 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.

Operation LASER

  • As a part of Operation LASER, the CAF is providing support to Government of Canada objectives and requests for assistance.
  • This includes 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

  • The Canadian Rangers are currently providing assistance in Northern communities by transporting and distributing supplies to local communities, conducting wellness checks, staffing of command posts and emergency centres and supporting community food security through hunting, gathering and fishing.

Version 2.1 – 2020-06-15

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Canadian Armed Forces assistance to long term care facilities

  • The brave women and men and uniform have done extraordinary work providing assistance in long term care homes. 
  • The accelerated pace at which long-term care facilities are stabilizing highlights the positive impact our women and men in uniform are having.
  • Our military personnel will be able to help turn the status in the facilities they are in to “green” by June 26th.
  • If some of the facilities are not yet “green” by that date, the Canadian Armed Forces will stay until they are.
  • Beyond June 26th, the Canadian Armed Forces will also hold a limited number of augmented civilian care teams in reserve. 
  • The Canadian Armed Forces will be prepared to assign these teams to Quebec long-term care facilities should acute needs arise.

If pressed on hazard pay for Canadian Armed Forces members deployed to Long Term Care Facilities:

  • The Canadian Armed Forces always stand ready to assist communities across Canada.
  • Military members are currently assisting vulnerable populations in Long Term Care Facilities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Quebec and Ontario.
  • We recognize that COVID-19 poses unique hazards for Canadian Armed Forces personnel operating in these facilities.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces ensures its personnel are properly trained and equipped.
  • This is why we defined Operation LASER, including the assistance military personnel are providing in these facilities, as a Special Duty Operation.
  • The Chief of the Defence Staff has also tasked his staff to pursue hazard allowance for members directly engaged inside these facilities.
  • That work is ongoing now.
  • We will continue to support Canadian Armed Forces members as they provide assistance to communities across Canada.

If pressed on COVID-19 testing among Canadian Armed Forces  members in Long Term Care Facilities:

  • Every day, military personnel risk their own health and safety to protect vulnerable Canadians.
  • In both Ontario and Quebec, any military member who displays symptoms of COVID-19 is immediately removed from the facility and tested.
  • We are now developing more stringent testing protocols for personnel, including those without symptoms.
  • All military personnel will be tested before they start work in a long term care facility.
  • Whenever a facility orders additional testing, military personnel within that facility will also be tested.
  • Finally when the mission is over, all personnel will self-isolate for 14 days, and will be tested again before returning to their home units.
  • These measures will be adopted to ensure the health of the force, of residents and staff, and of our overall mission in long-term care facilities.

Key Facts

  • Quebec:
    • Since April, Canadian Armed Forces members have provided support in a total of 43 facilities
  • Ontario:
    • Since April, Canadian Armed Forces personnel have provided support in a total of seven facilities
  • COVID-19 cases within the CAF population providing support in LTCF: 50 cases as of June 16, 2020
    • Active: 6
    • Resolved: 44

Details

Recent parliamentary and media interest

  • There has been sustained parliamentary and media interest in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)’s support to Long Term Care Facilities in Quebec and Ontario. Both the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party have urged the Government to maintain CAF personnel at Long Term Care Facilities. Specifically, the Bloc Quebecois have called on the Government to accept Quebec’s request to extend CAF support in these facilities until September.
  • In the media, there continues to be interest in the health and well-being of CAF personnel deployed to Long Term Care Facilities, 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 underway to help Canadians in the context of COVID-19, the CAF has been supporting civilian authorities in Quebec since April 20, 2020, and in Ontario since April 28, 2020, as agreed between the provincial and federal governments.
  • Members deployed in Long Term Care Facilities are working collaboratively with their provincial partners and with medical staff in the homes to maintain staffing levels and help with infection control and prevention. They are providing assistance with the day-to-day operations, helping with the coordination and provision of medical care, and providing general support at the identified facilities. 
  • In the course of their duties, 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.

Version 2 –2020-05-17

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Canadian Armed Forces Medical Intelligence reporting on COVID-19

  • Within National Defence, we have a team that evaluates threats from infectious diseases and environmental hazards.
  • This group of medical and intelligence experts focuses on potential threats to our military personnel and their operations.
  • Since the first indications of the outbreak on  December 31, 2019, National Defence has worked closely with other government departments, as part of a Whole of Government effort.
  • All relevant information and analysis was briefed to senior officials in a timely manner, with copies of briefing material made available to other departments and agencies.
  • Since January, National Defence has also participated in interdepartmental discussions related to COVID-19, and has shared information and analysis with various partners, including the Public Health Agency.
  • We continue to work collaboratively with our partners to ensure that we are basing our decisions on the best advice available.

Key Facts

  • On January 2, 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada alerted all federal departments and provincial authorities of the spread of COVID-19.
  • On January 14, 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada convened a meeting of the Canadian Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health.
  • On January 17, 2020, the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command delivered its first written briefing to the Minister of National Defence.
  • On January 27, 2020, the Government convened an incident Response Group to follow the issue.
  • On March 13, 2020 National Defence provided 134 pages of internal documents on COVID-19 to the House of Commons Health Committee, in response to a formal motion.
    • Medical intelligence reporting was excluded for national security purposes, in line with the terms of the motion. 

Details

Recent media and parliamentary interest

  • On April 20, 2020, the CBC published an article stating that the Medical Intelligence unit reported on, and issued warnings about the Coronavirus in early January 2020.
  • In the House of Commons on April 11, April 20, and April 28, 2020, Members of Parliament asked the Prime Minister and Minister of National who in the Government had access to this reporting, when, and what actions were taken.
  • In response, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of National Defense spoke of the overall importance of intelligence sharing and that they would not comment on internal Cabinet discussions.

Canadian Armed Forces Military Intelligence Command intelligence assessments

  • Intelligence assessments are essential to ensuring that we can continue to base our decisions on the best possible advice available.
  • There was no gap between the National Defence assessment and that of the Public Health Agency of Canada with regard to COVID-19 and its transmissibility and risk in Canada.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) medical intelligence unit did not provide warnings or inform recommendations with any information that was not already available to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Government of Canada policy recommendations were developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada – not CAF Medical Intelligence.

Version 1 – 2020-06-12 – Source: QP Note on CAF MEDINT; OPQ-430; CFINTCOM.

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Canadian Armed Forces stockpile of personal protective equipment

  • National Defence’s stockpile of medical-grade personal protective equipment is centrally tracked, maintained, and managed by the Canadian Forces Health Services Group.
  • 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 for the Canadian Armed Forces.
  • National Defence will continue 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.

Key Facts

  • On March 31, 2020, National Defence’s stockpile contained:
    • 5,955 gowns;
    • 1,509,600 surgical masks;
    • 106,353 N95 masks;
    • 1,731,700 pairs of gloves; and,
    • 2,346 face shields
  • As of May 11, 2020, the Canadian Forces Health Services Group has received an additional:
    • 600 gowns;
    • 1,500 surgical masks;
    • 1,200 N95 masks;
    • 224,825 medical-grade gloves; and
    • 10,560 face shields

Details

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.

Canadian Armed Forces personal protective equipment

  • The Canadian Armed Forces has played a key role in support of the Whole-of-Government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • Operation LASER, the CAF’s response to COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in the mobilization of Regular Forces members, Reservists, and Canadian Rangers, who answered the call to provide assistance in Long Term Care Facilities in Quebec and Ontario, as well as support to First Nations communities and municipalities across the country.

Version 1 – 2020-06-11 – Source: House of Commons Question 425: Government Purchase of Personal Protective Equipment

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Safety and well-being of Canadian Armed Forces members during COVID-19

  • As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Armed Forces is taking appropriate steps to protect all of its members.
  • Decisions are based on advice from health authorities and the Surgeon General, and military personnel are applying any necessary protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • In March, we paused certain training and exercises, and repositioned personnel both at home and internationally to ensure their continued safety.
  • To ensure the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces, preparations are underway to gradually resume certain activities, including training.
  • These activities will resume in a progressive, deliberate and safe manner while protecting the health, safety and overall wellness of our personnel.
  • Activities will be resumed in conjunction with each relevant provincial, territorial and local authority, in accordance with their particular policies in place.
  • We will continue to ensure that all military members and their families are supported both physically and mentally during this time.

Key Facts

  • All 37 CAF healthcare clinics remain open. Mental health and spiritual support services are deemed essential and remain available.
  • At this time, National Defence is only releasing COVID-19 cases among CAF Members working in long-term care facilities.

Details

Mental health

  • Mental health services are deemed essential and mental health care and psychosocial support for CAF members is continuing in all of our Canadian Forces Health Services Centres. Much of the care has moved to a telehealth model in which the patients have the option to remain at home and speak to the care provider on the phone or videoconferencing, and measures are in place to follow distancing and other infection control practices in the clinics.
  • CAF chaplains are providing active care to CAF members and their families. This is done in conjunction with the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) Family Information Line, and ensures that members and families have access to a chaplain to serve as a listening ear, provide counselling, as well as spiritual support, and appropriate referral. With Chain of Command approval, chaplains have opened chapels/sacred spaces for members and families in grief to receive support due to recent deaths of CAF members on operation.

Physical health

  • In addition to mental health services, other essential health services are maintained by maximizing use of technology and other measures to support physical distancing recommendations.
  • The CFMWS National Personal Support Program (PSP) online programming was launched to provide virtual Recreation, Health Promotion, Fitness, Soldier On and SOF program to support the CAF and their families maintain a healthy, fit and ready Force. The majority of Bases and Wings also have virtual recreation programs in place.

Military family services

  • Only 2 of 32 Military Family Service Centres (MFRC) are currently open, providing essential services in Edmonton and Winnipeg; however, the following virtual programs and services are still being provided:
    • 25 of 32 providing Virtual Mental Health services;
    • 32 of 32 providing Veteran Family Program services;
    • 32 of 32 providing Referrals to Family Information Line (FIL); and
    • 15 of 32 providing Virtual programming.
  • The CFMWS Family Information Line is fully operational, responding to 239 calls over a three week period. 
  • Daycare remains an issue for families. While there is a significant demand for daycare in support of CAF operations, MFRCs are not able to run childcare facilities on bases and wings in most provinces in line with public health restrictions.
  • CFMWS SISIP Financials Services continues to provide all insurance, financial planning, assistance to those in financial difficulty, and education services to clients, using virtual counselling technology.
  • SISIP is continuing to provide all insurance, financial planning, assistance to those in financial difficulty, and education services to clients, using virtual counselling technology.
  • Support Our Troops, managed by CFMWS, has been engaged for members in need, there has been concern about loss of income for military spouses. SOT is providing gift cards for food or fuel up to $200.00 via the chaplains. This tool very efficient and easy to use for members. It is not about the number of requests but about the ability to answer quickly each crisis situation when they occur. As of 31 May 2020, 103 members had been assisted and a total $27,200.00 has been distributed.

Version 1 – 2020-06-12 – Source: Safety and Wellbeing of CAF members QP note; CMP

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Countering misinformation on COVID-19

  • Cyber threat actors are attempting to take advantage of Canadians’ heightened levels of concern and fears around COVID-19.
  • That is why, in coordination with industry partners, the Communications Security Establishment is taking action against malicious cyber actors.
  • Our coordinated efforts have contributed to the removal of over one thousand fraudulent sites or email addresses designed for malicious cyber activity.
  • For example, the Communications Security Establishment has helped take down malicious websites pretending to be the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency.
  • The Communications Security Establishment also continues to provide critical foreign intelligence to inform decisions on Canada’s approach to COVID-19.
  • Taken together, these efforts will help ensure that Canadians can continue to trust official Government of Canada sources, particularly during these difficult times.

Key Facts

  • Misinformation on COVID-19:
    • Cybercriminals and fraudsters encourage victims to visit fake web sites, open e-mail attachments, and click on text message links.
  • Cyber threats to Canadian health organizations:
    • The Cyber Centre has assessed that the pandemic presents an elevated level of risk to the cyber security of Canadian health organizations involved in the national response to COVID-19.
    • To this end, the Cyber Centre issued a proactive Alert on March 20, 2020 warning Canadian health organizations of this heightened risk.

Details

  • COVID-19 has presented cybercriminals and fraudsters with an effective lure to encourage victims to visit fake web sites, open e-mail attachments, and click on text message links. These e-mails typically impersonate health organizations, and can pretend to be from the Government of Canada.
  • The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is continuously raising public awareness of cyber threats to the Canadian health organizations by proactively issuing cyber threat alerts, and providing tailored advice and guidance to Canadian health organizations, government partners, and industry stakeholders.
  • The Cyber Centre has also recently partnered with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) on the CIRA Canadian Shield, a free protected Domain Name System service that prevents users from connecting to malicious websites that might infect their devices or steal personal information. This partnership provides Canadian Shield users with enhanced protections through Cyber Centre derived threat intelligence.
  • Under the Five Eyes Country Research and Development Technological Foresight Network collaboration framework, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) has proposed with the U.S. a new network on countering misinformation generally that will support the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and connect Canadian operators and researchers with Five Eye partners.

Recent parliamentary interest

  • On May 20, 2020, Mr. Scott Jones, Head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security at CSE, testified at the House Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU) and spoke on cyber-related threats, cyber fraud, and more broadly on misinformation during COVID-19. Mr. Jones referenced the Get Cyber Safe Campaign and the work being done by CSE and the Cyber Centre to raise public awareness to combat cyber-threats, including misinformation.
  • On May 25, 2020, Mr. Scott Jones also testified at the House Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO). Conservative Members of Parliament questioned Mr. Jones on the new threat associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Jones stated that CSE is operationalizing its full mandate through issuing public awareness alerts and leveraging industry partnerships to combat cyber-attacks on Canadians, including with the House of Commons in assisting with the protection of virtual sittings.

Version 1 – 2020-06-09 – Source: QP Note Misinformation on COVID-19

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Defence Science and Technology contributions to COVID-19 response

  • Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) is mobilising its capabilities and expertise to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including by:
    • Assessing the spread and impact of COVID-19 through pandemic modeling and simulations, including to inform testing, rotation and quarantine decisions;
    • Monitoring Canadian Armed Forces members deployed in long-term care facilities to better understand occupational stress injuries and other mental health issues; and
    • Using the IDEaS program to find innovative solutions to the pandemic by launching its first set of COVID-19 related challenges, which will remain open until June 23, 2020.
  • DRDC has also invested $300,000 to accelerate testing of Hiltonol®, an anti-cancer drug that has the potential to prevent and treat the effects of COVID-19.
  • Currently, DRDC is working with the University of Saskatchewan to assess the drug’s effectiveness against COVID-19 in an animal model, and results are expected by the end of August
  • DRDC is also working with partners to assess the efficacy of other treatments, including currently approved anti-viral drugs and freeze-dried plasma from COVID-19 survivors.

Key Facts

  • Other key investments:
    • $15M for a Call for Proposals through the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) Program to address COVID-related challenges and,
    • $2.8M in additional IDEaS funding to support range of innovative solutions to help respond to COVID-19.
  • DRDC is also working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the National Microbiology Laboratory to assess the effectiveness of other currently approved anti-viral drugs against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • DRDC is exchanging results and lessons learned with partners in government and close allies, including the US, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Germany.

Details

Contributions from ongoing investments

  • Several of Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC)’s ongoing investments continue to prove essential to Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biosafety Level 4 Zoonotic Laboratory Network was established following the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, with funding support provided through the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP). This network was rapidly activated to provide a collaborative response to COVID-19.
  • In light of COVID-19, CSSP projects have been refocused to increase Canada’s capabilities to rapidly sequence pathogens, screen for antivirals, generate potential point-of-care rapid testing, and determine commercial livestock susceptibility to the novel virus.

Innovation

  • As part of a larger government-wide response to the pandemic, the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program is seeking innovative solutions to help in the fight against COVID-19. To assist in this effort, IDEaS recently launched its first set of COVID-19 related challenges, which will remain open until June 23, 2020. These challenges include efforts to gain real-time insights for pandemic decision-making, finding ways to re-use COVID-19 protective gear, and cleaning sensitive equipment and workplaces.
  • As a result of a collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC) and Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED), DRDC is currently finalizing contribution agreements through IDEaS to support two companies that are developing tests to rapidly diagnose COVID-19 and detect COVID-19 antibodies.
  • On behalf of National Defence, DRDC has also used IDEaS to co-fund the acquisition of 20 CleanWorks instruments for sanitizing medical protective equipment, which will be dispersed to hospitals across Canada.

Version 1 – 2020-06-12 – Source: ADM (Science and Technology) briefing note

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Transparency and accountability

  • National Defence is fully committed to openness, transparency, and accountability to Parliament.
  • We work diligently to provide comprehensive and thorough information to Parliament.
  • This includes responses to Order Paper Questions, requests from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Motions for the Production of Papers, as well as testimony before Committees.
  • Since January, we have provided responses to 104 Order Paper Questions.
  • We have also responded to 3 requests from the Parliamentary Budget Officer related to Canadian Armed Forces readiness, Strong, Secure, Engaged projects, and Joint Support Ships.
  • While we were unable to provide fulsome response to 17 Order Paper Questions during the pandemic, we have committed to providing these as soon as possible.
  • Despite the challenges that the pandemic has posed, we remain committed to transparency and accountability.

Key Facts

  • Since January, National Defence has:
    • Responded to 105 Order Paper Questions and 3 requests from the Parliamentary Budget Officer
    • Provided 276 pages of information in response to a Motion for the Production of Papers from the Health Committee
    • Supported four hours of testimony by National Defence officials at the Health Committee on COVID-19
  • COVID-19: On June 3, National Defence committed to providing 17 Order Paper Questions by September 21.

Details

Recent media and parliament interest

  • On June 3, 2020, media reported on allegations by Conservative Defence Critic James Bezan that National Defence was trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to withhold information from Parliamentarians. This follows earlier concern about federal departments failing to respond to Access to Information requests during the pandemic.
  • Specifically, Bezan pointed to National Defence’s inability to respond to 17 Order Paper Questions due to limitations stemming from working remotely. Bezan also flagged concerns about recent testimony from the Parliamentary Budget Officer at Committee about not receiving information from National Defence by its May deadline.

Version 1 – 2020-06-09 – Source: QP note on Parliamentary Budget Officer; QP note on Order Paper Questions

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