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The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Feb. 12, 2021.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The Canadian Armed Forces is deploying reconnaissance teams to the border as the federal government prepares to enlist the military’s help in establishing COVID-19 screening centres for travellers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week that all non-essential travellers arriving at the border by land will be tested starting Feb. 22 before they are allowed to enter the country.

Travellers will still be required to quarantine for 14 days, after which they will be tested again.

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The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is now looking at setting up testing sites at 16 border crossings with the U.S. with assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces and other federal departments.

Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande says that military assistance includes sending some service members to different sites to help with planning and logistics.

“In co-ordination with PHAC and Public Safety, CAF planners from regional joint task forces are assisting in the assessment of options, in some cases through on-the-ground assistance in reconnaissance, related to planning and logistics,” she said in an email.

The preparations come amid ongoing discussions among the Canadian Armed Forces and various federal departments around the exact nature of the assistance that the military will provide in staffing those testing sites.

However, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s spokeswoman Mary-Liz Power said the military “is not currently planned to undertake any role related to testing, quarantine, or enforcement at the border.”

The government announced the plan for the new border controls last month, but how they will work, who might be exempted and how the rules will be enforced were only laid out on Friday.

The Canadian military has been called upon several times throughout the pandemic, including by providing assistance last spring at long-term care facilities struggling with COVID-19 and, more recently, in the distribution of vaccines.

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