Canadian military on notice to provide logistic support, help vulnerable populations in wake of COVID-19

Canada’s top general says the military is in the process of determining what forces would be required to assist federal and provincial governments in responding to the novel coronavirus.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance.

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Canada’s top general says the military is in the process of determining what forces would be required to assist federal and provincial governments in responding to the novel coronavirus and that response will be geared to supporting vulnerable populations and providing logistics support.

There has been no official call yet for the use of military forces from federal, provincial or territorial governments. But Canadian Forces planners are preparing for such a request.

“Our tasks will be geared to support Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal governments and agencies in their efforts to suppress the disease, to support vulnerable populations and to provide logistical and general support to communities,” Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance noted in a statement released Friday on social media. “To do this we are now in the process of identifying the forces required, including our incredibly valuable Primary Reserves and Canadian Rangers.  These forces will be organized down to individual level into task forces able to deploy by sea, road or air to where they are needed.”

More information will come in the next week, Vance said.

But defence sources tell this newspaper that the response if needed will, among other areas, focus on providing support to remote Indigenous communities. Such communities have limited resources, particularly in the area of health and medical capabilities.

The Canadian Forces has an extensive logistics capability with its fleet of vehicles and aircraft. It can also set up mobile shelters and medical facilities.

Vance noted that many military personnel volunteer in their communities but such work must now be restricted to first responder duties since they are required to be ready for Canadian Forces duties at short notice. “When it’s time, we will marshal forces, conduct reconnaissance and deploy as, where and when required,” he added.

In his message to military personnel and their families, Vance also announced that the Canadian Forces will go ahead with its annual process of shifting personnel around the country for promotions and new jobs, albeit at a reduced level.

The annual military posting season comes at a time when federal government officials are advising Canadians to stay at home and practice physical distancing in an effort to reduce the number of cases of COVID-19.

“It is our intention to execute as many of the planned postings as is responsible and reasonable to do,” Vance explained.

He noted that the overall number of moves will be reduced significantly and they must be vetted and approved by senior leaders as operationally essential. The busiest time for postings and relocations from one community to another is during what is known as the “Active Posting Season” or APS, according to the Canadian Forces. During APS, about 5,000 to 6,000 members receive their posting messages, usually during the spring and most of the movement is carried out in the summer.

Vance said the active posting season will be lengthened to conclude by Dec. 31.

In addition, Vance warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting normal administration procedures for the Canadian Armed Forces or CAF.  “To reduce the administrative risks and to preserve our strength as recruiting has almost ceased, transition out of the CAF and retirements may be voluntarily delayed,” he warned.  “Those who are releasing voluntarily but wish to remain in the CAF are welcome to do so and appropriate terms of service will be offered. Those wishing to continue with transition may do so, but you must expect significant delays and disruptions.”

Vance also encouraged former military personnel to rejoin the Canadian Forces.