Royal Canadian Navy Update of March 20 - Ongoing COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 / March 20, 2020

One week since we began taking extraordinary measures to combat COVID-19, the health, safety and welfare of our Regular and Reserve Force sailors, civilian members of the defence team, and our families remains a top priority. It is a responsibility that we have always and will always carefully balance with the requirement to maintain readiness and to complete the tasks and missions assigned to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)/Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) by the Government of Canada (GC).

As you know, the situation regarding the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve. Thank you all for being so agile in tracking and adhering to the evolving direction and guidance. Your alertness has allowed you to track that in response to direction received by DND/CAF, late last week, the RCN has taken several steps to mitigate the risk to the entire naval team while ensuring we remain steadfastly “Ready to Help, Ready to Lead, Ready to Fight.”

As you would expect, RCN leadership is actively engaged, monitoring the situation in collaboration with partners across the entire DND/CAF and GC. As a result, the RCN has provided amplifying direction and guidance to you, our naval family, and will continue to monitor and adjust our posture and the subsequent orders/info we provide as the situation evolves.

The RCN has and will continue to carefully review all of our commitments, including ceremonial and outreach events, both ashore and at sea. When appropriate, as you have seen, we will not hesitate to cancel or postpone tasks, events and training – that under this new paradigm – unduly place the health, safety and wellness of the naval team, their families and the greater community at risk.

Core services are being maintained at all units across the RCN but the physical presence of personnel both sailors and civilian employees in our corporate workplaces and aboard ships alongside, has been minimized to the greatest extent possible – although essential work at Her Majesty’s Canadian Dockyards in Esquimalt and Halifax, such as the technical preparation of next deployers, is being progressed with all possible health-risk mitigations (i.e.; minimum staffing; tele-working; and social-distancing of workers where possible) incorporated appropriately. We expect this situation to persist for at least the next three weeks, during which time we’ll continue to keep you advised of the situation and our mitigations.

From the beginning, units on international operations (i.e.; Op REASSURANCE (Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Fredericton); Op PROJECTION (HMC Ships Glace Bay and Shawinigan); and Op CARIBBE (HMC Ships Nanaimo and Whitehorse) as well as those at home engaged in essential work (i.e.; related to maintaining readiness/deployment commitments) have adopted measures that enable them to continue to support the critical tasks assigned to them for as long as required.

As a result of our early efforts to ensure our operational units remained at the highest level of personnel readiness, given the emerging COVID-19 situation, Fleet leadership quickly adjusted sailing schedules when deemed necessary and implemented enhanced shipboard procedures.

In early March, HMCS Ville de Québec was set to sail to New York City with a number of prominent Canadian Women as part of International Women’s Day. The decision to cancel this engagement was not made lightly but was necessary to safeguard the health and wellness of our personnel. Instead, the ship conducted training off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Fleets on both coasts have also taken steps to implement additional precautions aimed at safeguarding the operational effectiveness and health of our sailors. Ships alongside have reduced the number of duty personnel onboard where possible to the duty watch and those personnel essential for priority tasks such as storing ship. Prior to sailing personnel are being screened by the ship’s medical team. This screening includes a review of recent travel history, for symptoms associated with COVD-19 and a review on any potential known contacts with COVID-19. Ships have also been provided guidance to assist in contingency planning.

Reserve Divisions have cancelled all non-essential activities, including parade nights, routine training and attractions activities for the next three weeks. The Naval Reserve is maintaining situational awareness and remains ready to respond to CAF/RCN taskings as required by GC. These are just some of the ways, the RCN is adapting to a dynamic and evolving situation.

Meanwhile, as sailors and individual members of the Defence Team, we recognize that the RCN’s response thus far has and will remain aligned with direction issued by DND/CAF and guidance provided by Public Health Authorities. Our goal is to reinforce the importance of hygiene, social distancing, and self-isolation for individuals who have symptoms or who may have come into contact with COVID-19 as a result of travel, work or personal interactions.

As we continue to fight COVID-19 together, we will provide additional direction and guidance as appropriate to the evolving situation as well as periodic updates such as this one in order to keep you appraised of the steps the RCN/CAF/DND continues to take to combat and mitigate the impact of COIVD-19 to our community and its readiness.

So far, shipmates and families, I share with you that while COVID-19 has indeed broadly impacted our daily routines and activities, we have succeeded in ensuring that it has had minimal impact on our essential outputs and operations. You can be proud that your immediate actions have had the results we are seeking. Take confidence from this. However, recall too that you must continue to lend this effort your personal and careful attention – YOUR health, our HEALTH, and our READINESS depends on it – DEPENDS ON YOU!

Rest assured, shipmates, that the RCN is committed, as always, to appropriately prioritizing your health – you: our sailors, civilian employees, and, of course, your families – as a key element of our successful maintenance of the highest levels of operational readiness to carry out the missions assigned to us by the Government of Canada.



Art McDonald
Commander Royal Canadian Navy