Royal Canadian Navy Update of April 8 - Ongoing COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 / April 8, 2020

Shipmates & families,

I hope that you and your families are adapting as best you can to your new routines and that this message finds you healthy, safe and ready! These are challenging times, but I am heartened to see the effect that we can have when we work together – we are, indeed, #FlatteningTheCurve. Right across Canada, our Defence Team members are clearly #InThisTogether and are doing their part through the simple practices of physical distancing and hand-washing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. By staying dispersed and making these personal practices routine, we are doing the most socially responsible thing possible we can while simultaneously preserving our readiness for any tasks or missions that come. Of course, as I have mentioned before, in order to be able to act when called upon also requires that we take measures to remain both physically and mentally fit as integral parts of our new routines – something I see via social media that so many of you have hoisted-in! To these ends, I encourage you to keep leveraging services still available through our Military Family Resource Centres (Halifax and Esquimalt) and Personnel Support Programs - organizations that have once again shined when we need them! Shipmates, you are indeed remaining “fit to fight” as Defence Team members! Bravo Zulu and keep it up!

Ranging out, you’ll recall from my UPDATE #2 last week, that the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), like the rest of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), has taken a number of institutional measures to ensure we also remain “fit to fight” collectively! In addition to the unprecedented measures we’ve taken to protect the health and well-being of our sailors and civilian staff, based on best practices recommended by Canadian health authorities and the Canadian Forces Surgeon General, we’ve significantly curtailed our non-essential activities ashore and at-sea. This de-scoping has served to focus us on essential activities such as Operations LASER (pandemic response) and LENTUS (domestic emergency) to which the RCN has already ear-marked four frigates, two Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels, two Domestic Response Companies, two boat sub-units, two teams of Clearance Divers, five General Duty Companies of Naval Reservists, and teams of local response forces amongst other contributions.  

Having made these force allocations to the pan-CAF operation, it is critical that the RCN now preserves the integrity of its forces in order to be able to respond when tasked by Canadian Joint Operations Command on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff to the needs – should they arise – of civil authorities and fellow Canadians as directed by the Government of Canada. For this reason, and out of an abundance of caution, ship’s companies – such as the Atlantic Fleet’s Her Majesty’s Canadian (HMC) Ships Ville de Québec and Moncton – are undergoing pre-operation sequestration prior to embarking in their ships for employment/deployment and/or proceeding to sea to avoid contracting the virus, while those ships whose time at sea while the virus was blooming has already proven them to be free of COVID-19 – including the Pacific Fleet’s HMC Ships Calgary, Regina and Brandon who have just completed a multi-week Task Group Exercise and two Orca patrol boats with Naval Warfare Officer trainees embarked – will remain at sea for an indeterminate period of time to avoid virus threat vectors while preserving individual and collective readiness.

This week will also see four Kingston-class ships, two per coast, return from COVID-shortened international operations. These ships, also known to be COVID-free and having passed more than 14 days since their last port visits, will now, at least for a short while, remain at-sea and be immediately available for LASER employment. Joining the Task Group at-sea on the West Coast will be HMC Ships Nanaimo and Whitehorse who are returning from Operation CARIBBE in the Eastern Pacific (counter narco-trafficking). Meanwhile, on the East Coast as HMC Ships Glace Bay and Shawinigan return from an Operation PROJECTION (Africa) deployment, they’ll constitute the COVID-free component of the Atlantic Fleet’s LASER contribution, at least until Ville de Québec and Moncton complete pre-operation sequestration.

To these shipmates returning from successes overseas, we salute you for your bringing Canada so impressively to the world before returning home earlier than expected only to continue your deployment in home waters while pivoting to a new mission – our pre-occupation in these unprecedented times. While in-deployment mission changes are not at all uncommon in the RCN, that this re-rolling involves remaining at-sea in home waters after the redeployment transit back to Canada makes this happenstance rather unique. It also makes it particularly difficult for your families whose routine daily and considerable sacrifice to enable your service at-sea is magnified in these unprecedented times and by the uniqueness of how your deployment will continue – for their continued support we thank them. Bravo Zulu and thank you, shipmates and family, for the resolve you are showing and the unique sacrifices that you are undertaking in joining our battle with this foe.

Finally, I need share to that we are so proud of the ship’s company of HMCS Calgary for having successfully completed work-ups and certified for High Readiness expeditionary operations. Now “booted-and-spurred,” Calgary was expected to deploy on Op PROJECTION (Asia Pacific) / Op NEON (UN Security Council Resolution Enforcement off the Korean Peninsula). However, owing to the regional impacts of COVID-19, that international deployment has been deferred. As a result, Calgary will also remain at-sea for the time being, augmenting the RCN’s ability to respond to LASER/LENTUS tasks as required.

Shipmates, these actions have readied us to move immediately when called upon, confident not only in the moment but also in both the reserve readiness we have built through dispersal and readiness preservation and, importantly, in the knowledge that our families remain safe and supported as always.

Thanks to all of you for your hard work, careful attention, and clear dedication in staying “fit to fight” and “Ready Aye Ready” always! We are getting through this, together.


Yours Aye,

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald
Commander Royal Canadian Navy