Operation LASER

Operation LASER  20-01 - COVID-19

For up-to-date Department of National Defence information related to COVID-19, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/campaigns/covid-19-military-response.html

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Operation LASER is the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) response to a worldwide pandemic situation.

Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) leads this operation, and is the command authority for the six standing regional Joint Task Forces, through which CAF support is delivered. They are situated in key locations across the country and provide operational command and control for task forces in and/or deployed to their respective regions.

Employment of CAF resources

The Canadian Armed Forces has recognized the need for greater flexibility when offering assistance to remote communities struggling with COVID-19. Therefore, the commander of CJOC has empowered the Regional Task Force Commanders to task Canadian Ranger (CR) patrols at their discretion. The goal is to leverage local resources for assessment purposes without the need for formal activation, as they are pre-positioned to identify emerging needs in their respective communities. These tasks differ from formal activations and deployments in both scale and process.

While a rapid CR activation can provide emergency relief and help identify emerging needs in remote communities, it does not offer the same scale of resources as an official RFA deployment. The traditional Request for Assistance (RFA) process is an official communication between the provincial/territorial governments, other relevant stakeholders, and the federal government. By assigning the authority to task Canadian Rangers to the regional level, the CAF aims to help improve the federal response to emergencies in remote communities. 

Canadian Armed Forces assistance

August 2020 to October 2021
Neskantaga First Nation

In October 2020, Neskantaga First Nation evacuated its population to Thunder Bay due to a shutdown of the community water supply. The Neskantaga First Nation has requested federal assistance in the form of self-sufficient ground personnel to ensure the ongoing safety and maintenance of the community while the residents are in Thunder Bay. Starting on October 30, 2020, the Canadian Armed Forces has provided support through the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group and members of the Primary Reserves. On December 24 2020, the CAF support the Neskantaga First Nation ended successfully. The CAF is proud to have worked alongside our partners and community members to bring needed relief and assistance.

Four Canadian Rangers were activated again from 16 May to 4 June to support the community of Neskantaga First Nation with the following tasks:

  • Integrating with the community leadership to coordinate activities with the Chief and council
  • Providing logistical and general support to include, but not limited to transportation assistance, delivery of food and supplies, and humanitarian assistance
  • Supporting a program of public awareness on health measures in effect
Opaskwayak Cree Nation

From November 22 to 29, 2020, a Canadian Armed Forces multi-purpose medical assistance team supported the Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home Opaskwayak Cree Nation in The Pas, Manitoba in response to a request for assistance to manage the COVID-19 outbreak. The team supported the personal care home with immediate medical care and support to residents, patient management assistance, general health-related support to residents, and other assistance to support the health care management within the facility.

Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation

From July 9, 2021 to August 20, 2021, about 13 Canadian Rangers were activated in the community of Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the community. The Rangers worked alongside members of the local First Nation to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. They carried out the following tasks:

  • Integrated with the community leadership to coordinate activities with the Chief and Council
  • Provided logistical and general support to include, but not limited to, transportation assistance, delivery of food, water, and supplies to those in self-isolation/quarantine
  • Supported the community in the production and distribution of real-life-support requirements such as food, water, firewood and care packages, as well as cleaning duties
  • Assisted with the distribution of information from Community, Provincial and Federal entities related to personal protective health measures and layered risk mitigation strategies

From December 3, 2020 to February 28, 2021, about 20 Canadian Rangers from the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4 CRPG) were activated in the Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation to assist local officials in COVID-19 relief efforts. The Rangers provided:

  • Support to the local community in the production and distribution of real-life-support requirements such as food, firewood and care packages
  • Assistance with the dissemination of information from community, provincial, and federal entities related to personal protective health measures and layered risk mitigation strategies for the community

 

Shamattawa First Nation

On December 4, 2020, about six Canadian Rangers from the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4 CRPG) were activated in the Shamattawa First Nation to assist local officials in COVID-19 relief efforts. Canadian Armed Forces assistance complemented and enhanced support drawn from provincial and local resources.

The Rangers provided:

  • Support to the local community in the production and distribution of real-life-support requirements such as food, firewood and care packages
  • Assistance with the dissemination of information from community, provincial, and federal entities related to personal protective health measures and layered risk mitigation strategies for the community
  • Logistical and general support including, but not limited to transportation assistance, resupply and humanitarian assistance
  • Integrated into the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) command post in the community

On December 9, 2020, the CAF dispatched a liaison and reconnaissance team of 11 Regular Force members from CFB Shilo, Manitoba to assess the situation alongside community and provincial partners.

On December 12, the CAF initiated the deployment of additional CAF members into Shamattawa FN, Man., to support a request for assistance. As of December 13, this contingent included:

  • A team of approximately 40 CAF personnel to assist in the establishment of an Alternative Isolation Area (AIA) and other community support tasks. The team was composed of CAF members from 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry from Shilo, Man.
  • A multi-purpose medical assistance team (MMAT) of 17 CAF members composed of nurses, medical technicians, and one general duty member to assist other healthcare support tasks. Personnel from the MMAT were from the 1 Canadian Forces Health Services Group in Edmonton, Alta.

On December 26, 2020, based on the improvement of the situation within the community, the CAF contingent was reduced by 19 members.

On December 31, 2020, the CAF support the Shamattawa First Nation ended successfully. The CAF is proud to have worked alongside our partners and community members to bring needed relief and assistance.

Red Sucker Lake First Nation

On 14 December 2020, the CAF dispatched a liaison and reconnaissance team from CFB Shilo, part of a whole-of-government effort to rapidly assess the COVID-19 situation in Red Sucker Lake First Nation, Manitoba, alongside other federal, provincial and community partners. This reconnaissance elements was composed of seven Canadian Armed Forces members based in Shilo, Manitoba.

On 16 December, 2020, the CAF received a request for assistance to support a whole of government effort in Red Sucker Lake First Nation, Manitoba. On 17 December, the CAF deployed approximately 35 personnel to Red Sucker Lake First Nation. This group consisted of a medical team, support and general duty personnel and leadership.

CAF personnel deployed in Red Sucker Lake worked alongside other members of the community and other government departments and agencies towards the provision of humanitarian assistance and to address emergent needs of this remote community. Specifically, tasks for the CAF included:

  • Providing assistance to the community in the production and distribution of real-life-support requirements such as food, firewood and care packages;
  • Assist local authorities, set up an alternate isolation accommodations to protect the community, and its vulnerable members, form the COVID-19 virus;
  • Providing accommodation and transportation assistance to other government departments and agencies operating in the affected area
  • Assisting local health authorities in providing medical care and support, within scope of MMAT capabilities
  • Integrate into the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) command post in the community

The expanded scope of CAF capabilities needed to help stabilize the situation in remote First Nation communities such as Red Sucker Lake First Nation, require a request for assistance (RFA) from the province of or Indigenous Services Canada to the Canadian Armed Forces through Public Safety. A RFA enables the CAF to bring a wider array of resources to bear to assist provincial and local partners in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.

On 2 January, 2021, the CAF support to Red Sucker Lake First Nation in Manitoba, ended successfully. The 34 CAF personnel deployed since the assistance began in mid-December 2020, will be drawing down until January 6, 2021. The CAF is proud to have worked alongside our partners and community members to bring needed relief and assistance.

Ekuanitshit First Nation

Since 24 December, 2020, the Ekuanitshit First Nation in the Côte-Nord region of Quebec has been experiencing a water shortage due to a leak in their system. On 29 December, 2020, a more in depth search began to locate and fix the leak and resolve the problem. Out of a population of over 600 people, approximately 200 vulnerable members of the community have been evacuated to Havre-Saint-Pierre and Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan.

On 30 December, 2020 Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), through Public Safety Canada (PS) signaled that federal assistance was required to the Ekuanitshit First Nation until the situation is stabilized. The CAF mobilized to provide Canadian Rangers support to the community.

On 31 December, 2020, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), through Public Safety Canada (PS), requested CAF assistance.

Nine Canadian Rangers from the area worked alongside other members of the community towards the provision of humanitarian assistance and with addressing the immediate needs of this community, namely through the production and distribution of real-life support requirements such as assistance with water delivery. They were also prepared to assist with conveying information, and with supporting vulnerable elders affected by the lock down. Assigned troops will also help identify potential emerging demands of the communities in which they operate.

The community water supply has been re-established and water has been confirmed potable. The community members that had been evacuated are now back in Ekuanitshit. The Province of Quebec no longer requires CAF assistance in location and the Government Operations Centre (GOC) has thus terminated the request for CAF assistance. Transition conditions have been met and a redeployment plan has been established, in coordination with community leadership.

On 2 January, 2021, the CAF support to Ekuanitshit First Nation in Quebec, ended successfully. The nine CAF personnel assigned since the assistance began on 31 December 2020, and completed their tasks on 2 January, 2021. The CAF is proud to have worked alongside our partners and community members to bring needed relief and assistance.

Fond-du-Lac Denesuline First Nation

From December 8, 2020 to January 15, 2021, 13 Canadian Rangers from the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4 CRPG)  assisted the Fond-du-Lac Denesuline First Nation local officials in COVID-19 relief efforts. 

The Rangers provided:

  • Support to the local community in the production and distribution of real-life-support requirements such as food, firewood and care packages
  • Assistance with the dissemination of information from community, provincial, and federal entities related to personal protective health measures and layered risk mitigation strategies for the community
Attawapiskat First Nation

In response to request for assistance by the province of Ontario, four Canadian Rangers were re-activated in the community from May 20 to August 6, 2021, to provide assistance with COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The Rangers worked alongside members of the local First Nation to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. The decision to conclude CAF support was made in coordination with federal and provincial partners once suitable conditions were achieved.  

From December 13 to December 22, 2020, the Canadian Armed Forces provided support through the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group and members of the Primary Reserves. During this period the Rangers:

  • Integrated into the local Emergency Operations Centre command post in the community
  • Provided logistical and general support including transportation assistance, resupply and humanitarian assistance
  • Supported the community in the production and distribution of food, water, firewood and care packages
  • Assisted with the distribution of information from Community, Provincial, and Federal organizations related to personal protective health measures
Garden Hill First Nation

Between January 17 and 18, 2021, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel was sent to support an Indigenous Service Canada-led liaison and reconnaissance team. The team’s purpose was to rapidly assess the situation in Garden Hill First Nation (FN). The CAF support to this reconnaissance elements was composed of eight CAF members based out of CFB Shilo, Man. and one Canadian Ranger from the local community.

On January 19, 2021, the CAF received a formal request for assistance from the federal government to assist the Garden Hill FN community. Accordingly, on January 20, 2021, approximately 30 CAF personnel deployed to Garden Hill FN to work alongside other members of the community and other government departments and agencies to provide humanitarian assistance and address the emergent needs of the community. The tasks the CAF has been called to carry out were:

  • Providing general duty support to the community and nursing station (for clerical, maintenance, cleaning duties of isolating personnel) where required
  • Integrating into the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) command post in the community to coordinate activities with the Chief and his Council, ISC, RCMP, local health authorities and the AMC Ambassador Team
  • Immediate assistance to the local health authorities in providing medical care and support to those in isolation
  • Assisting in the establishment of a local Alternative Isolation Area (AIA), including nursing and health care aids
  • Providing training and support to incoming staff in the operation of the AIA
  • Providing limited assistance with patient management tasks, including triage, secondary assessment, monitoring of patients, testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients
  • Where necessary, provide assistance to home wellness checks
  • Providing transportation assistance if required to other responding government departments in and out of the affected area for cargo and personnel if required.

On February 9, 2021, the CAF support to the Garden Hill First Nation ended successfully. The CAF is proud to have worked alongside our partners and community members to bring needed relief and assistance.

Ginoogaming First Nation
Fort Nelson First Nation
Pauingassi Anishnaabe First Nation 

In response to a request for assistance by the Province of Manitoba, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel were sent on February 2, 2021, to support an Indigenous Service Canada-led liaison and reconnaissance team to rapidly assess the situation in the COVID-19 affected community of Pauingassi Anishnaabe First Nation (FN). CAF support to this reconnaissance team consisted of eight CAF members based out of CFB Shilo, Man. 

Following this assessment, and in response to an additional request for assistance by the province, a separate team of approximately 18 CAF personnel arrived in the community on February 6, 2021, via RCAF CH-147 Chinook helicopter, to provide COVID-19 relief support. The CAF team of medical and general duty staff from CFB Shilo and CFB Edmonton, worked alongside community members to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community.

Their tasks included:

  • Assisting with the monitoring of critical infrastructure
  • Providing logistical support such as delivery of food and supplies
  • Accompanying local representatives to conduct wellness checks for vulnerable persons in the community, when requested to do so by local medical authorities
  • Health specialists will provide triage and secondary assessment of vulnerable persons in the community, when requested to do so by local medical authorities
  • Supporting to a program of public awareness on health measures in effect.

On February 20, 2021, the CAF support to the Pauingassi First Nation ended successfully. The CAF is proud to have worked alongside our partners and community members to bring needed relief and assistance.

Muskrat Dam First Nation

In response to a request to assist the Muskrat Dam First Nation in Ontario following the failure of a power generator during a wave of extreme cold weather, six Canadian Rangers from within the community were activated from February 7 to 20, 2021, to support relief efforts led by the Independent First Nation Alliance and local leadership. These Canadian Rangers are working alongside community members to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. Their tasks included:

  • Assisting with the monitoring of critical infrastructure
  • Providing logistical support such as delivery of food and supplies
  • Assisting with the preparation of a potential evacuation
  • Supporting the community command post
Cross Lake Cree Nation

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel were sent on February 19, 2021, to support an Indigenous Service Canada-led liaison and reconnaissance team to rapidly assess the situation in the COVID-19 affected Cross Lake communities of Pimicikamak Cree Nation and the Incorporated Community of Cross Lake. CAF support to this reconnaissance team consisted of four CAF members based out of CFB Shilo, Man. Following this assessment, and in response to a request for assistance by the province, a team of approximately 25 CAF personnel arrived in the community on February 23, 2021, via RCAF C-130 Hercules airplane, to provide COVID-19 relief support. The CAF team of eight medical and 17 general duty staff from CFB Petawawa in Ontario and CFB Shilo in Manitoba respectively, are working alongside community members to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. Their tasks included:

  • Support public awareness on health measures in effect and COVID-19 mitigation measures;
  • Integrate into the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) command post in the community to coordinate activities with the Chief and his Council, ISC, RCMP, local health authorities, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Ambassador Team and other whole of government partners;
  • Conduct wellness checks within the community in support of COVID-19 response, transport to alternative isolation accommodation (AIA) sites and pre-evacuation vitals;
  • Support the planning for, establishment of, and initial staffing, including limited civilian patient care, for an AIA with the Cross Lake Community;
  • Provide limited assistance with patient management tasks, including triage, secondary assessment, monitoring of patients, testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients;
  • Assist local health authorities in the establishment of a local AIA including nursing, health care assistants and general duty personnel; and
  • Provide training and support to incoming staff in the operation of the AIA.

CAF personnel departed Cross Lake in northern Manitoba on March 7, 2021, ending a deployment of approximately 25 soldiers that began on February 23, 2021. Soldiers and CAF medical specialists from CFB Shilo, Man. and CFB Petawawa, Ont., supported by RCAF aircrew, were in Cross Lake working alongside residents, local officials and partner organizations to provide relief during a resurgence of COVID-19 in the community.

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation

A Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) reconnaissance and liaison team based out of CFB Shilo, Manitoba deployed on March 7, 2021, to support a whole-of-government assessment of the situation in the COVID-19 affected community of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation.

Based on this assessment, and in response to a request for assistance from the Province of Manitoba, a 41-person multi-purpose medical assistance team (MMAT) composed of medical staff from 2 Field Ambulance based out of 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa and general support staff from CFB Shilo deployed to assist Indigenous Services Canada in their response to the COVID-19 situation in the community.

CAF personnel deployed into the community via a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CC-138 Twin Otter aircraft.

CAF personnel performed the following tasks:

• Integrated into the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in the community to coordinate activities with the Chief, Band Council and other whole of government partners

• Provided limited assistance with potential COVID-19 immunization of community members, as well as patient management tasks, including triage, secondary assessment, monitoring of patients, testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients

• Conducted wellness checks within the community in support of COVID-19 response, as well as those required to facilitate evacuation of community members

• Supported the planning for and initial staffing, including limited civilian patient care, for an AIA with the MCCN Community, to include the deployment of a complete MMAT

• Provided General Duty and Logistical Support to the community including, but not limited to, resupply and humanitarian assistance

• Supported public awareness on health measures in effect and COVID-19 vaccination programs

On April 1st 2021, the CAF successfully ended its support to the community of Mathias Colomb.

Tahltan Nation Dease Lake

In response to a request for support by Emergency Management British Columbia, two Canadian Rangers from Tahltan Nation Dease Lake were activated on 21 April to provide general duty and logistical support – such as food delivery – to the community as part of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. 

Support to COVID-19 testing in Nova Scotia

In response to a request for assistance from the province of Nova Scotia, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) deployed approximately 75 members on 27 April, 2021, to support efforts to deal with the substantial surge in COVID-19 cases in the province. CAF members deployed to various COVID-19 testing centers throughout the province carried out general duty tasks including:

  • Greeting members of the public upon arrival and providing administrative support;
  • Re-stocking of supplies and low-level logistical support;
  • Supporting the cleaning of testing sites; and
  • Providing other general duties as needed.

From 27 April to May 7, the CAF provided support at the following locations:

  • The Membertou Bingo Hall in Membertou First Nation
  • The Wolfville Festival Theatre in Wolfville
  • The Colchester Civic Center in Truro
  • The Yarmouth Mariners Center in Yarmouth

From 27 April to May 14, the CAF provided support at the following locations:

  • The Canada Games Center in Halifax
  • The Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth

The CAF members deployed to assist operations in these testing centers came from across Nova Scotia. Sailors serving in the Atlantic Fleet were assisting in the Halifax and Dartmouth testing centers while soldiers from the 36th Brigade assisted in Truro, Wolfville, Yarmouth and Membertou First Nation.

The CAF transitioned out of these testing centres at the request of the Province of Nova Scotia based on active monitoring of the situation.

Support to the Province of Ontario

In response to a request for assistance from the Province of Ontario, from 30 April to 31 May, 2021, the CAF provided military medical resources to augment healthcare providers in medical care facilities and general duty support to alleviate pressure on the Ontario health care system, as well as air transportation assistance to bring civilian medical personnel from other jurisdictions to Ontario as requested.

As a result of information gathered during virtual and in-person visits and with Ministry of Health concurrence, the CAF provided direct support to Sunnybrook Health Sciences’ Mobile Health Unit (MHU) and to their hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). 

CAF support consisted of a task force of approximately 50 military members, drawn primarily from CFB Petawawa, Ontario, and included:

  • A Command and Support element
  • Critical Care Nursing Officers (CCNOs)
  • Two Multipurpose Medical Assistance Teams (MMATs)

MMATs are scalable healthcare provider teams primarily composed of Nursing Officers and Medical Technicians. The two 17-member teams provided:

  • Support in providing medical care to patients
  • Assistance with patient management
  • Triage
  • Secondary assessment of vulnerable populations

The critical care nursing officers provided support to Sunnybrook Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Military nurses have skills and competencies equivalent to civilian ICU nurses, and were thus able to augment the civilian medical staff within Sunnybrook’s ICU.

The medical members were responsible for patient monitoring and care in one pod of the MHU. This pod contained 10 beds for relatively stable patients with moderate or severe-but-recovering cases of COVID-19, with  a stay averaging between 3-5 days. 

The decision to conclude CAF support was made in coordination with federal and provincial partners once suitable conditions were achieved.  

Support to the Province of Manitoba

In response to a request for assistance from the Province of Manitoba, from 28 May to 28 June, 2021, the CAF provided military medical resources to augment healthcare providers in medical care facilities and general duty support to alleviate pressure on the Manitoba health care system, as well as air transportation assistance to bring patients to other jurisdictions to as requested.

CAF support consisted of a task force of approximately 40 military members and included:

  • Three laboratory technicians;
  • Two Multipurpose Medical Assistance Teams (MMATs), and;
  • Critical Care Patient Aeromedical Transportation.

MMATs are scalable healthcare provider teams primarily composed of Nursing Officers and Medical Technicians. The two teams provided:

  • Assistance to local health authorities in providing medical care and support, and;
  • General duty support, to include, but not limited to planning, logistics and administrative support to the medical care facility where required.

The decision to conclude CAF support was made in coordination with federal and provincial partners once suitable conditions were achieved.

Fort Albany First Nation

In response to a request for assistance by the province of Ontario, four Canadian Rangers were activated in Fort Albany First Nation from 31 May to 26 June, 2021, to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the community. The Rangers worked alongside members of the local First Nation to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) tasks included:

  • Coordinating and liaising with Chief and Council;
  • Assisting command post operations;
  • Logistical support to organize and deliver critical supplies to vulnerable community members, including elders and those in self-isolation/quarantine;
  • General transportation duties including delivery of critical community supplies including PPE as necessary, and;
  • Conveying and distributing health/COVID-19 information and information related to the lockdown

The decision to conclude CAF support was made in coordination with federal and provincial partners once suitable conditions were achieved.

Kashechewan First Nation

In response to a request for assistance (RFA) by the province of Ontario received on May 31, 2021, four Canadian Rangers were activated in the community of Kashechewan First Nation on June 1, 2021, to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the community. Following a surge in COVID-19 cases in the community, the number of Canadian Rangers actively supporting relief efforts was increased to 14. The Rangers are working alongside members of the local First Nation to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. They are carrying out the following tasks:

  • Coordination and liaison with Chief and Council
  • Assisting command post operations
  • Logistical support to organize and deliver critical supplies to vulnerable community members, including elders and those in self-isolation/quarantine
  • General transportation duties including delivery of critical community supplies including PPE as necessary
  • Conveying and distributing health/COVID-19 information and information related to the lockdown

On June 16, 2021, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) received a second RFA from the Province of Ontario to expand our scope of support in order to help stabilize the COVID-19 situation in Kashechewan First Nation.

In response, the CAF deployed approximately 10 additional personnel, one CH-147 Chinook strategic lift helicopter and other resources to complement the Canadian Rangers already activated in the community. Supplemental tasks performed by the CAF included the following:

  • Integrating into the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) command post in the community in order to provide logistical and general support
  • Providing general duty support to the community where required, to include, but not limited to, set-up of isolation facilities, and the delivery of supplies, food and water
  • Assisting with the construction of temporary shelters in the community

This additional assistance from the CAF was provided until June 30, 2021.

Lac Seul First Nation

In response to a request for assistance by the province of Ontario, six Canadian Rangers were activated in Lac Seul First Nation from 4 May to 7 June, 2021, to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the community. The Rangers worked alongside members of the local First Nation to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) tasks included:

  • Integrating with the community leadership to coordinate activities with the Chief and council
  • Providing logistical and general support to include, but not limited to transportation assistance, delivery of food and supplies, and humanitarian assistance
  • Supporting a program of public awareness on health measures in effect

The Rangers supporting Lac Seul First Nation were from the community itself, and did not enter from an outside location.

Moose Cree First Nation

In response to a request for assistance by the province of Ontario, three Canadian Rangers were activated in Moose Cree First Nation from 9 May to 7 June, 2021, to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the community. The Rangers worked alongside members of the local First Nation to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) tasks included:

  • Integrating with the community leadership to coordinate activities with the Chief and council
  • Providing logistical and general support to include, but not limited to wildlife safety patrols, delivery of food and supplies, and humanitarian assistance
  • Supporting a program of public awareness on health measures in effect

The Rangers supporting Moose Cree First Nation were from the community itself, and did not enter from an outside location.

Long Lake 58 First Nation

In response to a request for assistance by the province of Ontario, four Canadian Rangers were activated in Long Lake 58 First Nation from 31 May to 26 June, 2021, to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the community. The Rangers worked alongside members of the local First Nation to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community. CAF tasks included:

  • Integrating with the community leadership to coordinate activities with the Chief and Council
  • Providing logistical and general support to include, but not limited to, transportation assistance, delivery of food, water, and supplies, to those in self-isolation/quarantine 
  • Supporting to a program of public awareness on health measures in effect

The decision to conclude CAF support was made in coordination with federal and provincial partners once suitable conditions were achieved.  

Support to Northwest Territories

In response to a request for assistance (RFA) by the Northwest Territories received on August 20, 2021, Canadian Rangers were activated from local patrols to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the region. The Rangers are working alongside members of the local First Nations to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote region. They are carrying out the following tasks:

  • Integration with the community leadership to coordinate activities with the Chief and Council;
  • Provision of logistical and general support to include, but not limited to, transportation assistance, delivery of food, water, and supplies to those in self-isolation/quarantine;
  • Supporting the community in the production and distribution of real-life-support requirements such as food, water, firewood and care packages, as well as cleaning duties; and
  • Assisting with the distribution of information from Community, Provincial and Federal entities related to personal protective health measures and layered risk mitigation strategies.

Canadian Armed Forces support to the NWT has been extended until Oct 1, 2021. Periodic assessments will be conducted and support to the community will be adjusted as required until the situation is manageable by local authorities.

Support to Alberta

On Sept 22, 2021 the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) received a request for assistance (RFA) from the Province of Alberta through Public Safety. In response to this request, the CAF is providing one senior critical care nurse and eight other critical care nursing officers (CCNO) to assist in intensive care units in hospitals in Alberta and help alleviate pressure caused by the spike in COVID-19 related hospitalizations. CAF support will be in place until October 31.

  • On Monday, October 4, one senior critical care nursing officer deployed to the province to work with health authorities to confirm where and how the other nursing officers will integrate into the Alberta heath care system
  • The eight CAF CCNO will work alongside Alberta Health Services (AHS) medical personnel at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton to help alleviate pressure in the critical care unit. They conducted integration training with AHS the morning of October 6 were scheduled for shifts that afternoon upon completion
  • Supporting CAF personnel are originally based in Ontario and Nova Scotia
January to July 2020
Support to long-term care facilities

On April 15, 2020, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) received a request for assistance to help in providing care to some of Canada’s most vulnerable seniors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, by deploying in support of Long Term Care Facilities (LTCFs) across Quebec and in the Greater Toronto Area, as part of Operation (Op) LASER.

From April to July, 2020, the CAF supported 54 LTCFs in Ontario and Quebec. Answering calls for assistance, CAF members provided support to seven facilities in Ontario and 47 facilities across Quebec. This included medical and support personnel who worked directly on-site as well as providing off-site support including planning, liaison, general duty chores, maintaining and delivering personal protective equipment (PPE).

Throughout these deployments, military personnel worked closely with facility staff to assist with day-to-day operations, supporting infection control and prevention, and providing general support wherever needed. CAF members worked in augmented civilian care teams, made up of a senior medical authority, approximately six medical technicians, and support personnel who assist on-site staff with patient management. The specific composition of each shift was determined by the facility’s individual needs identified during the reconnaissance.

While each LTCF faced unique challenges, CAF medical and support personnel provided assistance to these facilities in the following ways:

  • Preparing, serving, and collecting meals
  • Feeding residents
  • Washing residents’ hands and faces
  • Assisting with personal hygiene
  • Accompanying independent residents on walks or to the bathroom
  • Reassuring residents
  • Cleaning, stowing and maintaining non-medical equipment
  • Preparing and distributing cleaning and medical products
  • Sharing observations with health care colleagues to ensure best possible resident care

CAF support was not intended to be a long-term solution; however, from the outset, our priorities were to provide the help required to the LTCFs facing unprecedented challenges and bring support to health care workers and residents within these facilities. Throughout this deployment, CAF members took great pride in being able to support Canada’s most vulnerable citizens and healthcare providers.

Quebec

From April 20 to June 26, 2020, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) worked with provincial partners to deliver support to 47 facilities, identified by the Government of Québec, in order to ensure the ongoing safety of residents, help maintain effective staffing levels, and assist with infection control and prevention.

Ontario

From April to July 3, 2020, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) worked with provincial partners to deliver support to seven long-term care facilities, identified by the Government of Ontario, in order to ensure the ongoing safety of residents, help maintain effective staffing levels, and assist with infection control and prevention.

Support to Public Health Ontario

From April 16 to June 26, 2020, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel assisted Public Health Ontario (PHO) by conducting COVID-19 related contact tracing phone calls and associated reporting. More specifically, 1 Dental Unit team supported PHO by making phone calls to identify contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, with the goal of quickly identifying new cases, verifying that all people who came in contact with those new cases had the support they needed, and improving their understanding of COVID-19.

The task started in April with 30 CAF members (Dental Officers, Dental Technician-Hygienists and Dental Technicians across the country) who worked 7 days/week to assist Public Health Ontario, as needed. The CAF are proud to have worked in close collaboration with our provincial partners in this collective effort.

Canadian Ranger support to Quebec 

From April to July, 2020, the 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (2 CRPG) deployed more than 200 Rangers to assist 28 communities under Operation LASER, in response to various requests for assistance from the Province of Quebec. These requests were approved by the federal government.

Nunavik
On April 3, 2020, 2 CRPG was first mandated to assist the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS), who reports to the Quebec Government's Ministère de la Santé et des services sociaux (MSSS). 2 CRPG responded to this request by deploying approximately 100 Rangers who are permanent residents of the 14 affected Nunavik communities.

Basse-Côte-Nord
On April 17, 2020, 2 CRPG was mandated to assist the North Shore Regional MSSS. The Rangers provided local assistance in their respective communities. They supported Kegaska, Harrington Harbour, Tête-à-la-Baleine, Chevery, Bonne Espérance, Saint-Augustin, La Tabatière, and Blanc-Sablon.

North Shore
On April 19, 2020, 2 CRPG received another mandate following a request from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to support Innu communities on the North Shore. 2 CRPG personnel were employed in Nutashkuan (Natashquan), Ekuanitshit (Mingan), Unamen Shipu (La Romaine) and Pakua Shipi.

Northern Saskatchewan

On April 11, 2020, The 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4 CRPG) activated three northern Saskatchewan Ranger patrols in Wollaston Lake, Île-à-la-Crosse, and Fond-du-Lac to assist local officials in COVID-19 relief efforts. Approximately 40 Rangers began working following requests that were submitted to the province’s emergency management office.

In their patrol communities, the Rangers are providing support such as:

  • Wellness checks
  • Helping with transportation and distribution of local supplies to community members
  • Assisting in staffing municipal/community-operated command posts and emergency centre
  • Gathering data and statistics on the current state of the community relative to the COVID-19 relief efforts
  • Supporting community food security through hunting, gathering, and fishing

On April 23, 2020, 4 CRPG also conducted similar activities in Lac La Ronge, Saskatchewan.

Northern Ontario

Approximately 157 members of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3 CRPG) were activated on April 5, 2020, in support of Operation LASER. As of May 3, 2020, 3 CRPG received a formal request for assistance for the period of May 5 to 20, where local Canadian Ranger Patrols were supporting their communities of Kashechewan First Nation and Fort Albany in preparation for flooding. This support consisted of various tasks within the community to support the aims of Chief and Council and emergency management, including the creation of a shelter for community members who stayed close to their community, and the evacuation of vulnerable persons to Fort Albany. This support was conducted in concurrence with our partner agencies including Indigenous Services Canada, The First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, and the Canadian Red Cross.

As of May 21, 2020, no flooding occurred in the area and the community returned members from the nearby camps.

3 CRPG is part of the Canadian Army Reserve Force and provides the Canadian Armed Forces with a military presence in 30 First Nation communities of the remote coastal and inland regions of Northern Ontario.

British Columbia

Five Members of the Sandspit and Port Clements Canadian Ranger Patrols of 4 CRPG began work in support of Operation LASER in Haida Gwaii off the northern Pacific Coast of British Columbia between April 12 and 17, 2020.

Two additional 4 CRPG members also began support to the Regional District of Mount Waddington activated an Emergency Operations Centre on April 30, 2020.

Throughout the month of May, several Canadian Ranger Patrols in British Columbia, including those of Port Hardy, Port McNeil, and Dease Lake, provided assistance to their communities following requests for support. Their tasks included delivering food, assisting with emergency operations centers, and travelling to remote communities with supplies to support COVID-19 relief efforts.

 

Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Alberta

On Sept 22, 2021 the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) received a request for assistance (RFA) from the Province of Alberta through Public Safety. In response to this request, the CAF is providing one senior critical care nurse and eight other critical care nursing officers (CCNO) to assist in intensive care units in hospitals in Alberta and help alleviate pressure caused by the spike in COVID-19 related hospitalizations. CAF support will be in place until October 31.

  • On Monday, October 4, one senior critical care nursing officer deployed to the province to work with health authorities to confirm where and how the other nursing officers will integrate into the Alberta heath care system. 
  • The eight CAF CCNO will work alongside Alberta Health Services (AHS) medical personnel at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton to help alleviate pressure in the critical care unit. They conducted integration training with AHS the morning of October 6 were scheduled for shifts that afternoon upon completion. 
  • Supporting CAF personnel are originally based in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Land Port of Entry

Following a request for assistance, from 19 February to 28 March 2021, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel provided Government of Canada departments with planning and logistics support to establish testing sites at 16 land ports of entry (LPOE) across Canada. The task fell under Operation LASER, the CAF response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. In support of Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the CAF provided preliminary logistics support to the establishment of these sites at the border. At all times, CAF personnel took precautions to help minimize the spread of COVID-19, protecting our personnel and those with whom we interacted and assisted. CAF support to LPOE testing was limited to four main tasks:

  • At the federal level, assisted the PHAC with the planning for, and establishment of, LPOE testing sites;
  • Provided planning support – such as advice on site layout, operations and sustainment – to PHAC at the regional level;
  • Assisted PHAC personnel with contracting for the initial establishment of the these sites; and
  • Provided general duty support in the establishment of the LPOE testing sites.

The CAF did not engage in any activities related to testing, quarantine, or law enforcement at the border. 

The strategic objectives for Operation LASER

  1. Save lives
  2. Assist federal, provincial, territorial and regional partners 
  3. Maintain CAF readiness, effectiveness, and resilience

Phases of the operation

Operation LASER is the activation of Contingency Plan (CONPLAN) LASER for the response to a pandemic of an influenza-like disease. The plan consists of 4 phases. The Chief of the Defence Staff activated phase 2 of Operation LASER on March 2, 2020. On March 13, 2020, he activated phase 3.

Phase 1: Pandemic preparedness

  • Mitigation planning and normal monitoring of worldwide pandemic threats
  • This phase is permanently activated unless a higher Phase is active

Phase 2: Pandemic alert

  • Active monitoring of the evolving pandemic threat, with some protective measures adopted
  • This phase is activated by the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS)

Phase 3: Pandemic response

  • Activated on order of the CDS, this phase is characterized by widespread and continuous transmission of the virus in the general population and the imminent risk or existence of significant absentee rates   
  • The CAF response will be dependent on the disease’s impact in and around the location of CAF elements and requests for assistance to civil authorities

Phase 4: Post pandemic restoration

  • This phase starts when the CDS declares that the pandemic situation has concluded
  • This phase involves the resumption and re-establishment of all DND/CAF services and operations to normal levels
  • This phase transitions back to Phase 1 and coincides with Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) declaring a post-pandemic phase
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