Canada deploys Arctic Rangers to Inuit villages amid pandemic

Ottawa (AFP) –


Canada's prime minister announced Friday the deployment of Arctic Rangers, a volunteer scouting branch of its military, to remote Inuit villages in Quebec's far north after the area saw its first COVID-19 cases.

"We received a request from the Quebec government for an intervention by the Armed Forces to lend a hand to northern and isolated communities," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a daily briefing.

"Our members are always ready to help communities fight the COVID-19 virus," he said.

A military spokesman told AFP "the number of troops and resources required for the specific requested tasks" was still being finalized.

About 700 Rangers, also known as Canadian Rangers or Inuit Rangers, out of the 5,000-strong force are based in Quebec.

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said Monday that 24,000 troops could be mobilized to support coronavirus efforts across Canada, as well as respond to disasters such as floods or forest fires.

The first COVID-19 case in Quebec's far northern Nunavik region, home to 12,000 Inuits in 14 villages, was confirmed last Saturday.

A woman in Salluit, the second-northernmost Inuit community in Quebec located on the shores of Hudson Strait, is under quarantine while authorities announced a curfew and closed the airport -- the only link for the local population of 1,500 to the rest of the world.

A second case was confirmed on Wednesday in Puvirnituq near Hudson Bay.

Four cases, meanwhile, have been reported in the Northwest Territories and six in the Yukon, but none so far in Nunavut, according to public health authorities.

About 60,000 soldiers, or 85 percent of the Canadian military, have been sequestered in advance of likely COVID-19 operations.

"Their orders are to stay home and to stay healthy," General Jon Vance, chief of the defense staff, told Global News.