Extended army aid in CHSLDs: Defense “doesn’t want to know anything”


(OTTAWA) Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan fiercely opposes Quebec Premier François Legault’s request to extend the presence of soldiers deployed in the CHSLDs until September 15. Quebec will therefore have to quickly give itself a plan B if it wants to avoid the worst, while the CHSLDs continue to be hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posted on May 30, 2020 at 5:00 a.m.

Joël-Denis Bellavance
Joël-Denis Bellavance
The Press

François Legault’s argument that “Quebec is paying its share for the army” has obviously had no effect in the National Defense pharmacies, learned The Press.

“He doesn’t want to know anything,” said a government source. The Press granted anonymity to this source because she was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

More than 1,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been deployed to CHSLDs in Quebec since mid-April.

As of Wednesday, Minister Sajjan, himself a former soldier, had expressed doubts about the extension of Operation Laser. He did so by interviewing the CBC News Network a few hours after the Legault government made its request.


Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defense

I can assure you that we will not be able to hold on like this for another four months […]. We don’t have enough staff; our people work seven days a week, it’s just not sustainable.

Harjit Sajjan at CBC News Network

In a more caustic tone, he added that some provinces “do not fully understand how the military works” and that he did intend to “explain the limits” to them. Minister Sajjan also took care to point out that some 20 members of the Armed Forces had been infected and that “care should be taken”.

While he said an extension to September was out of the question, he did not say when the mission would end. At most he would be ready to consider another month.

Limited resources

In private, however, the Minister of Defense is even firmer, according to our information. He says in particular that the military has other obligations that cannot be set aside during this pandemic, including the obligation to prepare for the season of forest fires or to lend a hand to regions in other provinces. who could be affected by the floods.

“The resources of the Canadian Armed Forces are not unlimited,” said one.

In the Liberal ranks, there is great concern that the Canadian Armed Forces soldiers are packing up while there are still dozens of deaths every day in CHSLDs.

And we are not convinced that the Legault government has taken all the means at its disposal to regain control of the situation. We are also sorry that he recently embarked on a sustained campaign to recruit 10,000 beneficiaries, while the soldiers have been filling needs in these centers for more than a month.

The difficulties in recruiting attendants are such that the Legault government decided to turn to immigration to try to partially resolve this problem. The Minister of Immigration, Francization and Integration of Quebec, Simon Jolin-Barrette, has indeed announced his intention to recruit 550 attendants abroad to beneficiaries, who should be able to lend a helping hand nursing staff of CHSLDs.

A political price?

Some in the Liberal ranks in Ottawa say that it is not the primary mission of the soldiers to “change the diapers” of the elderly, but it is recognized that their presence has considerably changed the situation in the management of this crisis.

“You can’t just walk away like that. We will pay a significant political price if that should happen, “said a liberal source who requested anonymity, stressing that” saving lives “is also part of the essential mission of the military.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who will have the final say on this issue, was also reluctant to follow up on Quebec’s request this week, recalling again, as he did a few years ago. weeks, that the presence of the army in CHSLDs was an anomaly.

“This is not a long-term solution […]. This is a preliminary measure, and we have to see how we can go to another stage so that Quebec can take control of the situation directly, “said Justin Trudeau in particular this week after knowing Quebec’s request.

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