EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally stated three Hercules aircraft landed in Calgary to aid in the national COVID-19 response. While Canadian Forces members are ready to help provinces and cities respond to the pandemic, these three aircraft were related to other training operations, unrelated to the pandemic.
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces — along with resources and equipment — are in the Prairie provinces to help with the national COVID-19 response, if needed.
A spokesperson for National Defence told Global News Wednesday that while there is no current request for assistance from the Prairie provinces, “prudent contingency planning and preparations are ongoing across Canada to ensure that our personnel, resources and equipment are ready and that we are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to assist in the national COVID-19 response, in support of civil authorities, if asked.”
Public Safety Canada is the lead in coordinating a federal emergency response and the armed forces “stand ready to offer assistance in support of civilian authorities during any crisis in Canada, when requested by the government.”
The Canadian Rangers have been activated in four First Nations in the prairie provinces and one in Ontario, “following provincial requests for Canadian Armed Forces assistance,” she explained.
Operation LASER is described as the military’s “response to a worldwide pandemic situation.” In four phases, CAF personnel and the department of National Defence will help prepare, alert, respond and restore during a pandemic crisis.
The DND statement said: “The CAF continues to work closely with Public Safety and our federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous partners to align the provision of possible CAF military support and related capabilities with the overall government COVID-19 response.”
This way of using the Canadian Armed Forces is not unique, one expert says.
“It’s not rare at all because the military is, in a sense, in a class by itself. Unlike a corporation or any other government departments, the military has well-established internal lines of communication, it has a chain of command, it is well organised all the time from the top to the bottom,” said David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.
“We’ve seen the military called out to fight forest fires, to shovel snow in Toronto. We saw it called out earlier this year to help with old folks homes — mostly in Ontario but not exclusively so.
“What the government used to call ‘aid to the civil power,’ which was, in other words, ‘We’re going to help the provincial governments, we’re going to help the cities and so on to perform tasks that are essentially civilian tasks,’ that’s been going on since the whole history of the country.”
Bercuson says seeing the military step in to help should not be cause for concern.
“No, this is not panic at all.
“Trust them because, especially the medical branches in the military, they’re very well trained and they’re very well organised and they know what they’re doing.
“The support of the civilian population is an extremely important part of their job.”
Three CC-130 Hercules transport aircraft were seen at the Calgary International Airport Wednesday morning.
They are not related to vaccines, CAF public affairs officer David Lavallee said.
“Two are CC-130J Hercules from 436 Squadron, based at 8 Wing Trenton, Ont., both of which are conducing tactical airlift training for aircrew.
“The other is a CC-130T Hercules from Winnipeg-based 435 Squadron, which is supporting CF-18 Hornet training out of Cold Lake with air-to-air refuelling.”