Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canadian Armed Forces stand ready to assist provinces if they request their support.
“Over the past few weeks, the Canadian Armed Forces have been gearing up to support our efforts and our communities as we fight COVID-19,” Mr. Trudeau said at his daily press briefing on the pandemic outside his home Monday morning.
“Our women and men in uniform have always been there for Canadians in their time of need and this pandemic is no exception,” he said.
Mr. Trudeau said so far provinces have not asked for the military to intervene, but if that were to change, the Canadian Armed Forces are “ready to answer the call.”
He said the military has a plan to support communities during this “difficult period” and that more information will be announced at the noon ministerial briefing.
“We are also talking about emergency preparedness with premiers, that will be done further, during our next virtual meeting,” he said.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan later revealed Ottawa is ready to mobilize up to 24,000 Canadian troops to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. That represents about a quarter of the entire force and would be one of the largest peacetime mobilizations in Canadian history.
Those on standby include 10 Canadian Army units as well as Navy ships and Air Force aircraft and crew. Reservists and Canadian Rangers are also being put on notice, Mr. Sajjan said, with the Rangers ready to conduct patrols to northern and Indigenous communities.
“These flexible teams are capable of operating as local response forces to assist with humanitarian support, wellness checks, natural disaster response and other tasks as required,” said Mr. Sajjan, adding requests for assistance will be prioritized based on need.
The minister added that the government has been in touch with some remote communities to assess their needs. The military has in recent years provided assistance, including evacuations due to flooding and forest fires, to Indigenous communities and others in the north.
- With files from Canadian Press