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Canadian military to send personnel to isolated northern Quebec, but medical support is limited


The Canadian Forces will send personnel to isolated communities in northern Quebec, but the medical capabilities the military can provide will be limited.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that military assistance had been requested by Quebec for its remote communities and that Canadian Forces personnel would be setting up tents and medical support facilities.

But Canadian Forces sources say the medical support that can be provided is limited. The Department of National Defence confirmed Friday it has one deployable field hospital that is staffed by 150 personnel.

“1 Canadian Field Hospital is the Canadian Armed Forces unit responsible for the deployment of specialized healthcare providers and equipment in various configurations to provide medical and surgical capabilities to deployed military forces, in Canada and abroad,” National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said in a statement. “It has a traditionally-defined full-spectrum ‘field hospital,’ which includes numerous capabilities such as trauma surgery, resuscitation, critical care and diagnostics. It is a scalable and modular capability that can be split-up and/or decentralized, depending on the specific healthcare mission(s) and location(s).”

Two First Nations communities in Manitoba have also made direct appeals to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to establish a military hospital in their region in anticipation of an outbreak of COVID-19, CBC News reported.

Military engineers have also received a request from Kashechewan First Nation in northern Ontario to build a camp for the community that could be used in the event of spring flooding. Community members are usually flown to other locations in Ontario, but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are reluctant to leave in case they are exposed to the virus elsewhere.

It is unknown whether the federal government will provide military assistance to those communities in Manitoba and Ontario.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance noted in a statement to military personnel on Friday that the Canadian Joint Operations Command was planning with various staff “to ensure a rapid and effective response across the country.”

“We have already responded to a number of requests for assistance and will be ready to do much more, particularly as we approach flood and forest fire season,” Vance added.

No details were provided on which requests for assistance had been responded to, and the Canadian Forces did not have any more details.

In addition, the Canadian military had no other details about its requested deployment to northern Quebec. “Now that our assistance has been requested by the Province of Quebec, we are moving forward to co-ordinate CAF support, determine the number of troops and resources required for the specific requested tasks and finalize plans to engage locally,” it added in a statement.

The Canadian military says it is planning to mobilize 24,000 regular and reserve force personnel.

Vance said reservists who were to be mobilized would be offered full-time employment contracts lasting until Aug. 31.

He also noted that the Ceremonial Guard, held on Parliament Hill each summer, would be cancelled this year. “We are reviewing options to see if and when it will be possible to mount the National Sentry Program at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” he added, in reference to the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. “As for our demonstration teams, such as the Snowbirds, the CF-18 Demo Team and the SkyHawks, the show season may well be cancelled.”

Vance also said that change of command parades were prohibited and changes of command would be marked by small office ceremonies.

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