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.

During Operation LASER, the CAF implement certain measures on their personnel and Department of National Defence (DND) employees to reduce the impacts of a pandemic situation. These measures are implemented in order to maintain operational capabilities and readiness to support Government of Canada objectives and requests for assistance.

Canadian Armed Forces assistance

Assistance to the Public Health Agency of Canada

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel are assisting the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) with the warehouse management of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in multiple regions across Canada. PHAC remains responsible for the distribution of the PPE to provinces and territories. However, military members with relevant expertise are assisting with tasks such as material processing duties

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.

Since April, the CAF has supported 54 LTCFs in Ontario and Quebec. Answering calls for assistance, CAF members have 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 have 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 have been working 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 determined by the facility’s individual needs identified during the reconnaissance.

While each LTCF has faced unique challenges, CAF medical and support personnel have 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 have been to provide the help required to the LTCFs facing unprecedented challenges and bringing support to health care workers and residents within these facilities. Throughout this deployment, CAF members have taken great pride in being able to support Canada’s most vulnerable citizens and healthcare providers.

In response to provincial requests to extend Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) support to long-term care facilities (LTCFs) in Quebec, the Minister of National Defence has authorized an extension of CAF support on a contingency basis. As the crisis in LTCFs caused by COVID-19 is starting to abate, and given the need to reconstitute CAF Health Services personnel necessary to support essential CAF clinics, training, and operations, the CAF are conducting a conditions-based, deliberate draw-down from these facilities, based on transition criteria agreed-upon by provincial health authorities.

Once this draw-down is complete, a contingency care task force of 10 augmented civilian care (ACC) teams will remain at the ready until August 15, 2020 to respond to any uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreaks that overwhelm staff and provincial response capacities. Furthermore, the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) continues to build-up capacity and will be employed as the “first responders” in the event of additional LTCF outbreaks, prior to CAF resources being utilized.

Quebec

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.

Starting April 20, 2020, the CAF deployed military teams to provide support to the following locations:

  1. Résidence Floralies Lachine (Montréal)
  2. CHSLD St-Jude (Laval)
  3. CHSLD Providence Notre-Dame de Lourdes (Montréal)
  4. Château sur le Lac (Sainte-Geneviève)
  5. CHSLD Maison Des Ainés (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield)
  6. Centre d'hébergement de l'Hôtel-Dieu-de-Saint-Hyacinthe (Montérégie)
  7. Residence L’Eden de Laval (Laval)
  8. CHSLD Robert-Cliche (Montréal)
  9. CHSLD Rose-de-Lima (Laval)
  10. CHSLD Saint-Joseph-de-la-Providence (Montréal)
  11. CHSLD Paul-Lizotte (Montréal)
  12. CHSLD Hôpital Sainte-Anne (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue)
  13. CHSLD Valéo (Saint-Lambert)
  14. CHSLD Villa Val des Arbres (Laval)
  15. Manoir de Verdun (Montréal)
  16. Centre d’hébergement Yvon-Brunet (Montréal)
  17. Grace Dart Extended Care Centre (Montréal)
  18. CHSLD Benjamin-Victor-Rousselot (Montréal)
  19. CHSLD Floralies-De-Lasalle (Lasalle)
  20. CHSLD Eloria-Lepage (Montréal)
  21. Le Bellagio (Longueuil)
  22. CHSLD Auclair (Montréal)
  23. Résidence Berthiaume-Du Tremblay (Montréal)
  24. Centre d’hébergement de Saint-Laurent (Saint-Laurent)
  25. CHSLD Paul-Gouin (Montréal)
  26. CHSLD Cartierville (Montréal)
  27. Centre d’Hébergement Saint-Andrew (Montréal)
  28. CHSLD Vigi Reine-Elizabeth (Montréal)
  29. Centre d'Hébergement Jean-De-La-Lande (Montréal)
  30. CHSLD de la Rive (Laval)
  31. CHSLD Denis-Benjamin Viger (Montréal)
  32. CHSLD Argyle (Saint-Lambert)
  33. Centre d’Hébergement Saint-Margaret (Montréal)
  34. Centre d’Hébergement Real-Morel (Montréal)
  35. CHSLD Jean-Hubert-Biermans (Montréal)
  36. Centre d’Hébergement Nazaire-Piché (Montréal)
  37. CHSLD Vigi Mont-Royal (Ville Mont-Royal)
  38. CHSLD de Lachine (Lachine)
  39. CHSLD Jeanne-Le Ber (Montréal)
  40. CHSLD Saint Michel (Montréal)
  41. Centre d’hébergement J.Henri Charbonneau (Montréal)
  42. Centre gériatrique Maimonides Donald Berman (Montréal)
  43. CHSLD Henri-Bradet (Montréal)
  44. CHSLD Villa Les Tilleuls (Laval)
  45. CHSLD Manoir St-Patrice (Laval)
  46. Centre d'hébergement Ernest-Routhier (Montréal)
  47. Centre d'hébergement Paul-Émile-Léger (Montréal)
Ontario

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.

Starting April 28, 2020, the CAF deployed military teams to provide support to the following locations:

  1. Orchard Villa (Pickering)
  2. Eatonville (Etobicoke)
  3. Holland Christian Homes Grace Manor (Brampton)
  4. Altamont Care Community (Scarborough)
  5. Hawthorne Place (North York)
  6. Downsview Long-Term Care Centre (North York)
  7. Woodbridge Vista Care Community (Woodbridge)
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 

The 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (2 CRPG) deployed over 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.

On April 30, 2020, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) extended their request to include the Innu community of Kawawashikamach, near Schefferville.

Local Response Forces

The term Local Response Forces (LRF) refers to unit-level organizations across the Canadian Armed Forces that are not yet tasked as part of Operation LASER Task Forces but may contribute to community-level activities as municipalities continue to deal with the spread of COVID-19.

The LRF personnel may be Reservists who work out of armouries in cities across Canada, or troops on bases and wings who may be called upon to fulfill tasks in the local community. More specifically, LRFs may provide a helpful hand for short term general duty tasks which are not official government to government requests for assistance. Local Response Forces include:

Deployment of Canadian Rangers in 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.

Deployment of Canadian Rangers in 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.

Deployment of Canadian Rangers to British Colombia

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.

 

Deployment of Canadian Rangers to Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut

Between April 5 and May 4, 2020, 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (1 CRPG) activated approximately 400 members across various communities in the three territories – Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. As members were activated in the communities in which they live, they were able to provide essential support to relief efforts in most northern remote areas.

From April 27 to May 15, 2020, 11 Canadian Rangers from 1 CRPG were been assigned to support Watson Lake, Yukon to provide support to the community.
 
Canadian Rangers from the Watson Lake Patrol, 1 CRPG, prepared and delivered food hampers to community members in need, in support of the Watson Lake Hearts and Hands Community Project in Watson Lake, Yukon.

Between May 5 and 8, 2020, 11 Canadian Rangers from 1 CRPG deployed to Igloolik, Nunavut.

Canadian Rangers from 1 CRPG assisted the Igloolik Hunters and Trappers Organization to deliver food to families in need in Igloolik, Nunavut.

As part of this local response, members of 1 CRPG undertook tasks including:

  • Community wellness checks
  • Transport and distribution of food and local supplies
  • Support to local community and territorial COVID-19 awareness programs
  • Assistance in loading, transporting, and unloading of humanitarian assistance goods

As required, the activated members were also prepared to assist with other duties, including:

  • Verifying and supporting at-risk individuals or families
  • Monitoring of critical infrastructure;
  • Transporting and distributing local supplies;
  • Gathering data on community disposition relative to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Assisting local health authorities with various tasks.

 

The three lines of effort for Operation LASER

  • Preserve and protect CAF personnel to maintain operational capabilities and readiness, and meet the core mandates of the CAF.
  • Assess CAF activities at home and abroad including continuity plans, protecting defence supply chains, and taking measures to limit the chance of infection of CAF personnel.
  • Support other government departments to ensure the CAF are ready to support the Government of Canada’s objectives and requests for assistance.

Phases

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 Canadian Armed Forces (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

Joint Task Force-LASER 

Following the activation of phase 3 of Operation LASER, 1st Canadian Division Headquarters, a high-readiness, rapid-response unit based out of Kingston, Ontario, was assigned as Joint Task Force-LASER (JTF-LR).

From mid-March to mid-May, JTF-LR was responsible for the coordination and command of all domestic operations related to Operation LASER and played a critical role in the CAF response to COVID-19 by:

      •     Implementing and monitoring force health protection measures             that preserve CAF operational capabilities; and
      •     Responding to and acting on requests for assistance from             other government departments and agencies.

As of May 13, 2020, these functions have been assumed by the Canadian Joint Operations Command, headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario.

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