Letter from Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) regarding COVID-19

March 20, 2020 - Defence Stories

Chief of the Defence Staff
National Defence Headquarters
Ottawa, Ontario

March 20, 2020

To Our Canadian Armed Forces Community,

First, my thanks to all of you for responding so well to these unprecedented times. From the superb reaction to repatriate and assist in quarantine of returning passengers at Trenton, to significant changes to our training routine and our continued mission to defend Canada and conduct overseas operations, you have done extremely well and I thank you. We are part of a national response to prevent the unmitigated spread of COVID-19 by adopting a dispersed posture where we can, and taking protective measures like social distancing while at work, and staying home when sick. This will help Canada stay resilient and prevent overloading of our medical systems. I know that this situation has many of you and your families worried. As you adopt a dispersed posture at home, or are working on critical tasks with others, don't let the physical isolation get to you. Reach out, stay connected and remember to be mindful that our obligation to conduct operations means we must preserve our force so we are healthy and ready to deploy wherever and whenever our country needs us —this includes here at home and abroad. This is your mission.

As we complete this first week of dispersion, and while it is too soon to know how effective it will be, we must remain focused on our purpose, and that is to be ready. This means that every single military member and our families are very much a part of an effort to maintain our readiness. The actions of you and your family will have a direct impact on our ability to be ready for the unknown, and be ready for our continuing missions. Should we be required, and while we monitor the situation, our contingency planning has, at its core, a reliance on well-trained and healthy troops to be there for Canadians.

I have directed planning for a wide range of contingencies, and that is ongoing. It does not mean that we will be required to conduct contingency operations, but we must be ready with people, plans and equipment. We must also face the reality that the three-week operational pause we are experiencing now may continue, if needed, to prevent the spread of the virus. This will have, and has had, an impact on our training and many institutional activities. While we study and make the best decisions we can based on medical advice, we know that we will experience significant disruption to postings, courses, collective training and strategic work in procurement and force development. We will do all we can to mitigate, but the bottom line is that we must accept such disruptions as a price to pay to preserve the force and help keep Canadians safe. As we manage risk while staying ready, or maintaining critical services and conducting operations, there will be differences in the varying measures taken across the CAF. This is to be expected given the different operational demands across the country and around the world. My commanders are following my intent — preserve the force, continue necessary critical tasks and missions, and plan for contingency operations. Those activities that can be delayed or abbreviated will be. Those that cannot will be conducted as safely as possible.

Finally, although we face unprecedented circumstances, we must take all in stride. We are the Canadian Armed Forces after all. We will plan confidently and respond professionally as long as we all do our part. Stay focused on the mission, and your mission is to be ready by following the direction of your Commanding Officer, and keeping yourself and your family healthy.

J.H. Vance General

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