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Canadian Armed Forces ready to respond to COVID-19 'at home and abroad'

Last Updated Mar 17, 2020 at 3:17 pm PDT

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Armed forces do not 'see any greater threat to ourselves or Canadians' than COVID-19

CAF restricts work, travel and events to keep members healthy, ready to respond

Armed forces suspending all events and practices that put people in close contact with one another

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Canadian Armed Forces are suspending training, travel and regular work for a large swath of members to ensure they’re ready to deploy domestically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the force that must be ready at all times to conduct military operations, at home and abroad, and in dealing with a COVID-19 threat, the Department of National Defence [DND] and Canadian Armed Forces [CAF] have a responsibility to enforce health protection measures for their personnel in order to maintain operational effectiveness and preserve their capacity to carry out core missions in support of the Government of Canada,” Daniel Le Bouthillier, with national defense, said in an email Tuesday.

While information provided to NEWS 1130 does not include any imminent plans to deploy armed forces in Canada, Bouthillier said steps are being taken to “ensure that they are capable of assisting civil authorities and Canadians should the need arise.”

On March 13, General Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, and Jody Thomas, deputy minister of defence, issued orders restricting the travel, event attendance and work of civilian employees and members of the armed forces.

For at least three weeks, personnel have been told to work from home if possible, stop travelling abroad for business or personal reasons, and stop attending or hosting public events.

The armed forces are also suspending all events and practices that put people in close contact with one another unnecessarily, including ceremonies, conferences and “routine unit activities,” Le Bouthillier said.

“The CAF recognizes that this direction will have an impact, and in some cases a significant impact, to personal, professional and family plans,” Le Bouthillier said.

“The CAF does not see any greater threat to ourselves or Canadians than what has been described by health authorities. As such, the CAF must adopt best practices as a matter of obligation to preserve operational [readiness].”

In a March 13 letter to civilian defence employees, Thomas said the pandemic was not expected to impact Canada as severely as other countries, but “it is prudent and responsible to plan as if the full brunt of COVID-19 will reach us soon.

“All of us share real and valid concerns about the health of our families and friends and, in many cases, aging parents and relatives. I share this worry,” she added.

Thomas said that only “core activities” would continue as the armed forces shifted to the “pandemic response” phase of its contingency plan.

According to Le Bouthillier, “this phase is characterized by widespread and sustained transmission of the virus in the general population and imminent risk or existence of significant absentee rates.”