CAF assists Canadians in recovery at home

New Brunswick
As floodwaters rose to record-setting highs across New Brunswick, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed approximately 60 members as part of Operation Lentus to lend a hand as the clean up begun and provincial officials assessed damages.

The effects of the flood were devastating. More than 80 roads and bridges were closed to traffic across the province and the Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Moncton and Fredericton.

Fredericton area seemed to be hit the hardest as the St. John River reached a high of approximately 8.0 metres above sea level. Northeastern areas of New Brunswick reached water levels of between 6.5 to 7 meters above sea level.

More than 1,150 people registered with the Red Cross stating that they evacuated their homes. Those who stayed with family and friends did not register. 

CAF troops weren’t removing heavy sandbags out of homeowners’ yards or doing cleanup work that private companies could be hired to do. Elements of 4 Engineer Support Regiment from 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown were deployed to support Provincial authorities assess floods, prioritize future relief work and repairs to infrastructure, and help plan and coordinate relief efforts. 

May 2018 – Infrastructure assessment operations continue throughout flooded areas of NB. (Photo: Sgt Lance Wade)

“It was a real opportunity to see the extent of the damages,” Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters during a brief statement after a tour on a Canadian Coast Guard vessel. “Even though the waters are lower, you know that there’s been tremendous flooding, a tremendous number of people impacted and of course the work on the cleanup is going to come in the coming weeks and months.”

Since the flooding began, Canadian Armed Forces liaison officers have been alongside provincial authorities to monitor the situation and provide advice on how the CAF could best support if provincial resources and capabilities were exceeded. 

The CAF has also been supporting the Province of New Brunswick through a Provision of Services Agreement since April 30th, which has included use of the Oromocto Boat Ramp, and modular tents with tables and chairs for feeding people, a heater, generator and lights. 

In January 2017, roughly 200 members of the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to New Brunswick to aid in door-to-door efforts, debris clearance and distribution of water and other essentials to 16,000 households that went days without power.

British Columbia
The West coast of Canada has also been affected by flooding. Southern BC has seen increased water levels due to melting snow, high temperatures and heavy rain. 

The Province of British Columbia asked for help and the Canadian Armed Forces responded by deploying 300 members to B.C., the majority from 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade in Edmonton.

CAF members have been deployed to a staging area in Vernon. From there they are expected to aid areas such as Grand Forks, where officials in the southern interior city say a second round of flooding is imminent. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said, troops “will provide assistance with evacuations, help protect key assets from flood damage, and bolster sandbagging efforts.”

Sept 2017 – CAF members work in BC to prevent hotspots from reigniting the wildfire that has devastated the region. 
(Photo: Cpl I. Thompson, CF Joint Imagery Center)

On the Fraser River, east of Vancouver, the province’s river forecast agency predicted flows would reach 13,000 cubic metres a second, levels that have not been seen in 70 years. The river is expected to reach highs of 6.5 metres above sea level.

Emergency Management B.C. said approximately 5,000 people have evacuated their homes due to the high water levels.

Last summer’s forest fires made conditions worse in many areas because the water is unable to penetrate a crust on the ground left by the hot fires.

The CAF deployed approximately 400 members in 2017 to aid wildfire operations. A CC-177 Globemaster, a CC-130J Hercules, two CH-147F Chinooks, and three Ch-146 Griffons were sent to British Columbia to help with evacuations and to provide airlift capacities for first responders and equipment. 

Angela Nantel, FrontLine staff writer.