COVID-19 / March 30, 2020

Members of Maritime Forces Atlantic & our families,

We are experiencing a new reality, a new “normal,” as we deal with this national and international challenge that COVID-19 has brought into our lives. 

I realize everyone has questions about what happens next and when will it end.  No one has those answers yet, but as the CDS mentioned in his 27 March letter, keep looking at reliable news and information sources to ensure you are up-to-date about the reality in your area, across our country and around the world. 

Given these unknowns, we must remain ready to respond, if and when, we are tasked to directly support our fellow Canadians.  The health of our uniformed members is critical and that is why we have experienced a new way of doing business over these past two weeks.  Keeping as many people as possible working from home has given us significant flexibility and enabled us to keep the team healthy and safe.

The time has now come where we need to do more to ensure we are prepared for future issues and challenges. 

As such, I have directed the team to look at alternate arrangements to maintain the preparedness of our two Ready Duty Ships (RDS) crews, to ensure that they are clear of COVID-19 and ready to embark their ships as required. Up to this point, the crews of both HMCS Ville de Quebec and HMCS Moncton have been at home practicing physical distancing in line with the national direction issued by the CDS on 13 March. 

To preserve this critical capability, I have decided that extra measures are necessary to reduce the risk of infection to these crews for when they eventually have to embark their ships. Therefore, I am being extremely cautious by deciding to sequester both crews, along with a Cyclone helicopter air detachment, for 14 days in a local hotel, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection as much as possible before ships’ embarkation.  It is important to point out that none of the crew members of either ship have tested positive for COVID-19 and we assess that they are at low risk of having contracted the virus, given their actions to date.  However, this option gives us the best chance of avoiding a community spread within one of the ships should someone have contracted the virus at the last minute due to natural family interactions. The civilian hotel option was selected because it provides the most flexibility for the Formation going forward while preserving Base capacity for possible future requirements.

I recognize this decision will be very challenging for our sailors and their families. In many ways, it will be like they have left on deployment, while in reality they will be very close by. During this time, tough decisions need to be made in order to preserve the Royal Canadian Navy’s ability to assist the civilian authorities and Canadians during this pandemic.  Upon completion of the 14 days, the ships’ crews will embark and proceed to sea in anticipation of future taskings while preserving their capability. The length of this sea-time will be determined later as we track the regional, and indeed, national situation.

An exact date for moving our sailors into a hotel is still being worked on as we put a contract in place with a local establishment; however it will not occur before Wednesday, 1 April. The sailors and air detachment have been given advanced notice of this initiative so that they can help their families put support plans in place. However, we are moving as quickly as we can in order to protect our sailors so that we have as much flexibility as possible going forward when the situation may be more difficult. 

As always, I am immensely grateful for our families’ support whenever we head out the door to assist our fellow Canadians. Every effort will be taken to ensure the crews can remain connected electronically with their families, and to ensure that families are supported as best we can, given the current circumstances.  If needed, families can identify issues to their sailors, who will raise them to their Chain of Command. Families can also request emergency assistance by contacting the local Military Family Resource Centre by telephone or email. 

I would also like to take a moment to thank all the members of our team, military and civilian, who, due to the nature of their jobs, have worked both within the Formation and from home.  Your contribution has been immeasurable; your efforts and dedication has allowed us to get to this point in time.  That said, we will continue to face challenges and your continued support is essential. 

In closing, many of you will have additional questions so please reach out to your Chain of Command and we will get you the answers.  In the meantime, continue to take care of yourselves and your families and look out for one another.  We will get through this and will be all the stronger for it. 


C.A. Baines