Transcript: Canadian Soldiers Fighting COVID-19 | Nov 11, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, checkered shirt, spotted gray tie, and a red poppy pin.

A caption on screen reads "Canadian soldiers fighting COVID-19."

Steve says DURING THE MOST DEVASTATING PHASE OF THE PANDEMIC'S FIRST WAVE, LONG-TERM CARE HOMES IN THIS PROVINCE WERE IN SUCH DIRE STRAITS, THEY REQUIRED THE ASSISTANCE OF THE CANADIAN MILITARY. THEIR EFFORTS ON THE HOME FRONT WERE CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO CARING FOR RESIDENTS. THEIR SUBSEQUENT REPORT ON WHAT THEY FOUND IN THOSE HOMES SHONE A LIGHT ON SOME DEVASTATING CONDITIONS THERE. WITH US FOR A BROADER VIEW OF WHAT WAS INVOLVED: IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL, IN UPPER FOREST HILL: LIEUTENANT COLONEL JAMES STOCKER OF THE CANADIAN ARMED FORCES, WHO WAS COMMANDING OFFICER OF TERRITORIAL BATTLE GROUP 1 WHEN IT WAS SENT IN TO ASSIST...

James is in his forties, with short brown hair and a boxed beard. He's wearing glasses, a black military uniform and a red poppy pin.

Steve continues AND IN HAMILTON, ONTARIO: CORPORAL LAILA AHMED, CANADIAN ARMED FORCES MEDICAL ASSISTANT AND A REGISTERED NURSE DEPLOYED IN THE EFFORT...

Laila is in her thirties, with short chestnut hair. She's wearing a black sweater and a red poppy pin.

Steve continues WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE YOU TWO WITH US ON THIS IMPORTANT DAY ON OUR CALENDAR. I JUST WANT TO START BY, LET'S TAKE EVERYBODY BACK AND I WANT TO REMIND EVERYBODY WHAT OPERATION LASER WAS ALL ABOUT. IT WAS THE CANADIAN ARMED FORCES' PLAN TO RESPOND TO THE PANDEMIC, IN THIS CASE COVID-19, AND LET'S BRING THIS GRAPHIC UP AND WE CAN TELL EVERYBODY WHAT WENT ON.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "The Military's COVID-19 response. Operation 'Laser.'"

Steve reads data from the slate and says
IN APRIL 2020, THE GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO ASKED THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA TO SEND CANADIAN ARMED FORCES IN TO ASSIST IN LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES FROM THE 28TH OF APRIL TO THE 3RD OF JULY, 500 SOLDIERS WERE DEPLOYED TO SEVEN LONG-TERM CARE HOMES IN THE GREATER TORONTO AREA. GROUPS INCLUDED BOTH REGULAR FORCES AND RESERVISTS FROM THE ARMY, NAVY, AND AIR FORCE, AND APPROXIMATELY 50 SOLDIERS PER FACILITY WERE BROUGHT TO BEAR. LIEUTENANT-COLONEL STOCKER, LET ME START WITH YOU. DID THE SOLDIERS KNOW WHAT THEIR MISSION WAS BEFORE THEY WERE ACTUALLY DEPLOYED?

The caption changes to "James Stocker. Canadian Armed Forces."

James says A QUICK ANSWER STEVE, NO. SO IN THE INITIAL FACES OF THE COVID PANDEMIC, THE DECISION WAS MADE TO FORM A RAPID RESPONSE UNIT WHICH WAS CAPABLE OF RESPONDING TO A RANGE OF EMERGENCIES THAT THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO MAY HAVE NEED OF US AND WE FORMED A UNIT KNOWN AS TERRITORIAL BATTLEGROUND 1, WHICH WAS A COMPOSITE UNIT AND DEPLOYED THAT UNIT IN SEGREGATION TO BORDEN TO BE PREPARED TO RESPOND TO A WIDE RANGE OF EMERGENCIES. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A COVID EMERGENCY, A FLOOD OR A FOREST FIRE. SO WE TRAIN FOR A WIDE RANGE OF CONTINGENCIES AND AT THE END OF THE DAY THE ULTIMATE TASK SELECTED IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE FROM THE PROVINCE WAS A TASK TO PROVIDE THAT EMERGENCY SUPPORT TO THOSE SELECT LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES IN THE GTA.

The caption changes to "Answering the call."

Steve says IF THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE BEING SENT OFF TO DO, WHAT DID THEY THINK THEY WERE BEING SENT OFF TO DO?

James says THE TERRITORIAL BATTLEGROUND I MISSION WAS ONE OF READINESS AND TO BE ABLE TO RESPOND TO A RANGE OF CONTINGENCIES. LIKE I SAID LIKELY TASKS INCLUDED FLOODS OR FOREST FIRES IN COMMUNITIES STRESSED BY COVID AND THEY HAVE SMALL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENTS AND THEY MIGHT HAVE BEEN QUICKLY OVERWHELMED IN LIGHT OF COVID. SO WE PREPARED FOR A WIDE RANGE OF CONTINGENCIES, NORTHERN EVACUATIONS, FLOODS, FOREST FIRES, OR MORE OF A COVID TYPE RESPONSE AND ULTIMATELY OF COURSE THE COVID RESPONSE IS WHAT ENDED UP COMING TO PASS.

Steve says ONE MORE FOLLOW-UP. IS IT FAIR TO SAY THAT WHEN PEOPLE JOIN THE CANADIAN FORCES DO THIS KIND OF WORK IN A LONG-TERM CARE HOME IS PROBABLY NOT AT THE TOP OF WHAT THEY THINK THE LIST OF THINGS IS THAT THEY MIGHT BE ASKED TO DO?

James says I THINK THAT'S FAIR TO SAY. IT CERTAINLY WASN'T ANYTHING THAT I ANTICIPATED. I DON'T THINK IT WAS ANYTHING ANY OF US ANTICIPATED. COVID IS AN UNPREDICTABLE PANDEMIC AND AN UNPREDICTABLE EMERGENCY, AND WE APPLY THE GENERAL PROBLEM SOLVING SKILL SET. EVEN THOUGH IT'S AN UNFAMILIAR TASK FOR THE GENERALISTS AND IN FACT I WOULD OFFER A LITTLE BIT UNFAMILIAR FOR MEDICAL PERSONNEL TO TRAIN MORE FOR THINGS LIKE TRAUMA, BASE HOSPITALS AND BASE CLINICS, WE DO TRAIN THAT LEVEL OF RESPONSE AND THAT ABILITY TO RESPOND TO THE UNFORESEEN, PROVIDED WE GET THE EXPERT ADVICE, AND THAT REALLY WAS WHAT WE DID IN THE LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES.

Steve says CPL. AHMED, WHERE YOU WERE BROUGHT ONTO THE SCENE, WHAT WERE YOUR EXPECTATIONS AS TO WHAT YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULD FIND?

The caption changes to "Laila Ahmed. Canadian Armed Forces."
Then, it changes again to "Serving long-term care home residents."

Laila says SO I'LL SAY IT'S VERY SIMILAR TO WHAT LIEUTENANT-COLONEL STOCKER. WE DIDN'T KNOW AT THE BEGINNING WHAT WE WERE DOING. AT THE TIME I WAS WORKING IN MENTAL HEALTH NURSING AND EMERGENCY ROOM NURSING SO I WAS ALREADY RESPONDING ON THE COVID-19 FRONT LINE, IF YOU WANT TO CALL IT THAT. AS THEY LOOKED FOR WHO WAS AVAILABLE TO GO, THE DETAILS WERE STILL SORT OF FUZZY, WE WERE READY FOR WHATEVER WAS NEEDED. BUT THAT BEING SAID, THE DETAILS HAD NOT BEEN HASHED OUT AT THAT POINT. SO WE WERE VERY, VERY QUICK-MOVING. THE TIME LINE WAS VERY, VERY SHORT BECAUSE WE WANTED TO GET INTO THE HOMES AND RESPOND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND DO WHAT WAS BEST FOR THE RESIDENTS AND AS WELL TO AID THE STAFF AND SORT OF HELP TO STABILIZE THE SITUATION.

Steve says WE SHOULD JUST SAY RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE THE BACKGROUND DOES NOT REALLY GIVE AWAY WHERE YOU ARE, BUT YOU'RE AT WORK RIGHT NOW. YOU'RE AT A HOSPITAL IN HAMILTON. YOU'RE ON A BREAK. AND WE ARE REALLY GRATEFUL THAT YOU'RE TAKING YOUR BREAK TO BE WITH US. WE WON'T TAKE TOO MUCH OF YOUR TIME SO WE CAN LET YOU GET BACK TO THE IMPORTANT WORK THAT YOU DO. HAVING SAID ALL THAT, DURING YOUR COLLECTIVE TIME IN THESE LONG-TERM CARE HOMES, THE MILITARY DID ITS WORK AND THEN WROTE A REPORT, AND WE WANT TO SHARE SOME OF THE DETAILS OF THAT REPORT. I REMEMBER... I WELL REMEMBER PREMIER DOUG FORD GOING TO THE PODIUM AT A PRESS CONFERENCE AND SAYING THIS WAS ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS THAT HE EVER READ, ONE OF THE HARDEST REPORTS HE EVER READ. HERE WE GO.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Troubling scenes in Ontario long-term care homes."

Steve reads data from the slate and says
YOU FOLKS SAW AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR FROM STAFF TOWARDS RESIDENTS THAT THE MILITARY DEEMED TO BE ABUSIVE, INCLUDING DEGRADING OR INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS, AND REFUSING TO STOP OR SLOW DOWN WHEN PATIENTS COMPLAINED OF PAIN. YOUR SOLDIERS SAW MEDICATION THAT HAD BEEN EXPIRED FOR MONTHS. YOU SAW INSECT INFESTATIONS INCLUDING COCKROACHES AND ANTS. FORCEFUL FEEDING THAT CAUSED AUDIBLE CHOKING OF PATIENTS. EXTREMELY SEVERE BED SORES INCLUDING SOME THAT HAD WORN THROUGH TO THE BONE. PARENTS WITH SOILED DIAPERS WHO WERE LEFT IN THEIR BEDS. IN CERTAIN CASES MILITARY PERSONNEL HAD TO BRING THEIR OWN FOOD TO ENSURE RESIDENTS WERE FED, AND NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR STAFF WHO FAILED TO UPHOLD BASIC CARE NEEDS. CORPORAL, I WANT TO GO BACK TO YOU. YOU KNOW, I GET THAT THERE'S AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO ALL OF THIS GOING ON RIGHT NOW, SO YOU ARE SOMEWHAT HAMSTRUNG FROM WHAT YOU CAN SAY. HAVING SAID THAT, THAT WAS THE STATE OF THE LONG-TERM CARE HOMES THAT YOU FOUND YOURSELF IN WHEN YOU WERE BROUGHT IN FOR THIS MISSION.

Laila says SURE. I WILL SAY EVERY HOME WAS DIFFERENT, EVERY HOME HAD UNIQUE CHALLENGES. THERE WERE DIFFERENT REASONS THAT THOSE HOMES WERE ON OUTBREAK. OUR GOAL AND MINE WAS TO HELP STABILIZE THAT HOME. IT WAS OUR RESPONSIBILITY NOT TO GO IN AND JUDGE AND BE PUNITIVE BUT TO SUPPORT THE HOME. YOU WOULD SEE SORT OF ACROSS THE BOARD THAT THERE HAD BEEN SOME STAFF THAT HAD BEEN WORKING ALMOST A MONTH STRAIGHT WITH NO BREAKS, 8 OR 12-HOUR SHIFTS, THERE WAS A LACK OF INFECTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL POLICIES THAT WERE BEING IMPLEMENTED OR THEY WERE SHORT-STAFFED THAT THEY REALLY WEREN'T ABLE TO. SO A LOT OF IT WAS EDUCATION. A LOT OF IT WAS ASSESSMENT. BUT OBVIOUSLY WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO CARE FOR PEOPLE ETHICALLY AND SAFELY WHEREVER WE GO AND TO REPORT OF THOSE FINDINGS. SO WHILE I CAN'T RECALL TALK ABOUT THE SPECIFICS OF THE REPORT, I CAN SAY THAT IT IS OUR OBLIGATION TO CARE FOR PEOPLE AND TO ENSURE THE HIGHEST STANDARD OF CARE IS BEING MAINTAINED AND THAT EVEN ONCE WE'RE GONE THAT THERE ARE POLICIES IN PLACE AND THAT THE EDUCATION IS IN PLACE TO MAKE SURE THAT THAT HIGH STANDARD CAN MAINTAIN.

Steve says FAIR TO SAY YOU DIDN'T SEE MUCH OF A HIGH STANDARD AT WORK THERE?

Laila says I WOULD SAY THAT YOU COULD SEE A... THERE'S OBVIOUSLY ISSUES, RIGHT? WE KNOW THE ISSUES IN LONG-TERM CARE AREN'T NECESSARILY NEW. I WOULD ALSO SAY THAT THERE WERE STAFF THAT LITERALLY HAD RISKED THEIR LIVES BEING THERE, CIVILIAN STAFF, AND SO REALLY IT WOULDN'T BE FAIR TO PAINT IT WITH ONE BRUSH TO SAY THAT NO ONE CARED ABOUT THE RESIDENTS OR ALL RESIDENTS WERE TREATED POORLY. WHAT ISSUES OF CONCERN WERE BROUGHT UP AND REPORTED AS SUCH BUT THERE WERE STAFF THAT DID AN EXCELLENT JOB OF CARING FOR PEOPLE AND HAD WORKED THERE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS.

Steve says LIEUTENANT-COLONEL STOCKER I REALLY WANT PEOPLE TO BE REMINDED OF THE KIND OF WORK THAT YOUR PEOPLE HAD TO DO, THE KINDS OF EQUIPMENT THEY HAD TO WEAR, THE KINDS OF SHIFTS THEY HAD TO WORK, THE KIND OF THINGS THAT THEY ENCOUNTERED. COULD YOU FILL IN SOME OF THOSE BLANKS FOR US?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

James says ABSOLUTELY. IT'S A GREAT QUESTION. IT WAS FORMED TOWARDS THE BEGINNING OF APRIL AND FROM THE VERY BEGINNING WE TOOK A PRETTY STRICT STANCE TOWARDS POTENTIAL COVID-19 INFECTION. SO PRETTY DETAILED SEGREGATION, POTTING. IF YOU WORKED WITHIN A CERTAIN TEAM YOU STAYED WITH THAT TEAM FOR THE NATURE OF THE DEPLOYMENT. ONCE WE PUSHED DOWN INTO THE LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES AS YOU MENTIONED TOWARDS THE END OF APRIL, WE REALLY BROKE DOWN INTO WHAT WERE CALLED AUGMENTED CIVILIAN CARE TEAMS. THERE WERE ABOUT 50 PEOPLE WERE TEAM. AND ONE TEAM ROUGHLY SPEAKING PER FACILITY. THERE WAS SOME ROOM TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT SPECIFIC CONSIDERATIONS. AND EACH OF THESE TEAMS WAS BROKEN DOWN INTO A MIX OF BOTH MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS, NURSES AND MEDICAL TECHNICIANS, AS WELL AS GENERALISTS, WE CALL GENERAL DUTIES PERSONNEL. AND THESE WERE GENERAL SOLDIERS, SAILORS, OR AVIATORS WHO OPTED TO TAKE PART AND THIS WAS A VOLUNTEER MISSION FOR THE RESERVISTS WHO TOOK PART. THE MEDICAL PERSONNEL DID THINGS YOU WOULD EXPECT THEM TO DO IN TERMS OF DIRECT PATIENT CARE. WHEREAS THE GENERALISTS DID THINGS LIKE FOOD PORTERING, CLEANING, VARIOUS PREPARATIONS, LOGISTICAL HELP. ANYTHING WE COULD DO TO ASSIST THE FACILITY IN OVERCOMING THIS EMERGENCY. AND IN SUPPORT OF THEM, WE HAD A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO WORKED OUTSIDE THE HOME TAKING CARE OF THOSE WHO WERE INSIDE THE FACILITY IN TERMS OF THINGS LIKE PREPARING THEIR MEALS, DOING THEIR LAUNDRY AND ASSISTING WITH THEIR ACCOMMODATIONS. THIS WAS ALL PART OF A BROADER ONTARIO... BROADER PAN-GOVERNMENTAL RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS.

Steve says WE SHOULD REMIND EVERYBODY, YOUR PEOPLE WERE SENT IN AT A TIME WHEN THERE WAS A GREAT DEAL... A LOT LESS WAS KNOWN ABOUT COVID AND A LOT MORE FEAR WAS IN THE AIR. I WONDER IF ANY OF YOUR PEOPLE DECLINED THE ASSIGNMENT?

James says NOT A ONE. WE DID NOT HAVE A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL DECLINE THE ASSIGNMENT. YOU'RE CORRECT, THE KNOWLEDGE OF COVID WAS FAR LESS THEN THAN THERE IS NOW. THERE WAS UNDERSTANDABLE CONCERN AND TO A DEGREE A LITTLE BIT OF FEAR, NOT ONLY FOR THEMSELVES BUT ALSO FOR THEIR FAMILIES. BUT NOT A ONE DECLINED THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE.

Steve says CPL. AHMED, WHAT KIND OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT DID YOU MANAGE TO GET IN ORDER TO DO YOUR WORK?

Laila says SURE. AROUND THE TIME THAT WE WERE IN THE HOMES, WE DETERMINED THAT FOR THE MOST PART UNLESS THERE WAS AN [indiscernible] IN PROCEDURE, WE WERE TO WEAR N-95 THAT [indiscernible] MASKS WERE TO BE OKAY. WE HAD A FACE SHIELD AND A GOWN AND GLOVES. NOT WEARING IT PROPERLY WAS A HUGE ISSUE. A LOT OF THE EDUCATION WE WOULD DO ESPECIALLY WITH CIVILIAN STAFF WAS TO SAY, OKAY, THIS IS HOW YOU DON IT OR PUT IT ON PROPERLY. THIS IS HOW YOU DOFF IT. AS YOU'RE TAKING ON AND TAKING OFF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT, THAT IS SORT OF YOUR GREATEST AREA OF RISK. YOU KIND OF GET USED TO IT BUT YOU DON'T REALLY GET USED TO IT EVEN AFTER A SERIES OF WEEKS. BUT IT IS SOMETHING NOW THAT IS BOTH CIVILIAN AND MILITARY, WE ARE USING PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT TO PROTECT OURSELVES AND TO PROTECT OUR RESIDENTS AND PATIENTS AS WELL.

Steve says YOU CAN BE CANDID WITH ME AFTER THE FACT HERE BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY YOU GOT THROUGH IT. DID YOU WORRY AT SOME POINT THAT YOU WERE GOING TO GET THIS DISEASE AND DIE?

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Laila says I THINK LIKE ANY HEALTH CARE PROVIDER AND REALLY LIKE ANY CITIZEN, THERE IS ALWAYS THAT CONCERN OR WORRY. BUT WE ARE GIVEN THE TRAINING AND I'VE BEEN A NURSE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, SO YOU'RE GIVEN THE TRAINING, YOU UNDERSTAND THE RISKS AND YOU'RE OUTFITTED WITH THE PROPER PPE. SO YOU HAVE THE SUPPORTS IN THAT SECTION. IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT YOU STILL CANNOT CONTRACT THE VIRUS. IT STILL IS A POTENTIAL. BUT WE'RE HUMAN BEINGS, RIGHT? YOU'RE GOING TO WORRY. YOU'RE GOING TO WORRY ABOUT YOUR FAMILY WHILE YOU'RE AWAY. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY THERE'S A MISSION TO COMPLETE AND THERE'S PEOPLE THAT NEED HELP. SO WE TAKE THE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS. WE USE OUR PPE, WE WASH OUR HANDS, WE TRY NOT TO TOUCH OUR FACE. IT DOESN'T GUARANTEE WE'RE NOT GOING TO GET SICK BUT IT GIVES US A MUCH BETTER CHANCE OF COMING OUT HEALTHY.

Steve says I REQUEST THE QUESTION BECAUSE I PRESUME YOU SAW A GOOD SHARE OF DEATH IN THOSE HOMES; IS THAT RIGHT?

Laila says WE KNOW THAT OUR GERIATRIC POPULATION HAS A HIGHER MORTALITY RATE FOR COVID-19. PART OF NURSING, YES, IS CARING FOR OUR DYING AND DOING SO IN A COMPASSIONATE WAY. SO WE DID HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY OBVIOUSLY TO HELP PEOPLE SORT OF THROUGH THE END OF THEIR LIVES IN A COMFORTABLE AND COMPASSIONATE WAY, AND THAT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT'S NECESSARILY UNUSUAL FOR LONG-TERM CARE HOMES. OFTENTIMES IT'S THAT PERSON'S LAST HOME. BUT WE WANTED TO MAKE SURE WHETHER IT WAS RELATED TO COVID-19 OR OLD AGE OR WHATEVER THE SITUATION WAS, THEY WERE TREATED WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT.

Steve says AGAIN, I'M GOING TO PUSH THIS ONE MORE IF YOU DON'T MIND. I DO REMEMBER MANY, MANY FAMILIES AT THIS TIME WERE EXPRESSING JUST INCREDIBLE SADNESS ABOUT THE FACT THAT THEIR RELATIVES, AND I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE HOMES THAT NECESSARILY YOU WERE INVOLVED WITH, BUT ALL AROUND ONTARIO, THEIR RELATIVES WERE DYING AND THEY WEREN'T ABLE TO GET INTO THEIR HOMES TO VISIT THEIR RELATIVES AND THEIR RELATIVES DIED ALONE. AND THAT WAS TRAGIC. SO I'M AGAIN GOING TO INFER THAT THERE WERE MOMENTS THAT YOU EXPERIENCED WHERE YOU MAY HAVE HELD SOMEBODY'S HAND AS THEY DIED AND YOU WERE THE LAST PERSON THEY SAW; IS THAT RIGHT?

Laila says THAT IS CORRECT. ALTHOUGH WE WOULD TRY AND INVOLVE THE FAMILIES IN ANY WAY THAT WAS POSSIBLE. SO ALTHOUGH THE RISK AT THAT TIME WAS TOO GREAT TO ALLOW THEM INTO THE HOMES, WE WOULD HAVE EITHER PHONE CALLS OR FACETIME VIDEOS. IS IT A COMPLETE REPLACEMENT FOR IN-PERSON VISITS? I DON'T THINK SO. BUT WE WERE DOING THE BEST WE COULD WITH THE AVAILABILITY THAT WE HAD, AND SORT OF WITH THE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS IN PLACE. IT IS DEFINITELY NOT MY FIRST TIME SORT OF HELPING PEOPLE TO THE OTHER SIDE AND ENSURING THAT THEY HAVE A DIGNIFIED DEATH, BUT IT WAS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT FOR US BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF FAMILY THAT WE WERE THERE TO SUPPORT PEOPLE SORT OF NO MATTER WHAT THE SITUATION WAS.

Steve says LIEUTENANT-COLONEL, I SHOULD ASK YOU, DID ANY OF YOUR PEOPLE CONTRACT COVID-19?

James says YES, STEVE, WE DID HAVE SOME CONTRACTION OF COVID-19 AND THOSE NUMBERS WERE RELEASED BY THE GOVERNMENT TO THE MEDIA. I AM GRATIFIED TO NOTE THE NUMBER WAS QUITE LOW AND THAT EVERYONE ENDED UP HEALTHY IN THE END. AND AGAIN, KEEPING IN MIND THAT THESE SOLDIERS, SAILORS, AVIATORS, MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AND GENERALISTS WERE WORKING IN A HIGHER RISK ENVIRONMENT, THERE WAS SOME CONTRACTION BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY EVERYONE WAS HEALTHY.

Steve says GOOD TO KNOW. NOW, FOR THE LONGEST TIME, OF COURSE, DURING THIS PERIOD, THESE ISOLATED SOLDIERS AND SENIORS ESSENTIALLY WERE THE ONLY POINT OF HUMAN CONTACT THAT THEY HAD IN THE WORLD. IT WAS WITH EACH OTHER. WAS THERE ANY PARTICULAR EXCHANGE THAT STOOD OUT FOR YOU THAT YOU CAN RECALL AND TELL US ABOUT TONIGHT?

James says THERE WERE. THERE WERE A COUPLE OF, YOU KNOW, REALLY TOUCHING MOMENTS RELATED TO OTHER FOLKS. WE DID HAVE ONE SOLDIER WHO TOOK TO PLAYING PIANO IN ONE OF THE LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES IN HIS LIMITED TIME AFTER-HOURS, AND YOU COULD REALLY FEEL THE MOOD LIFT WHEN HE DID SO. SORT OF THAT TOUCHING PEOPLE. WE HAD A NUMBER OF OUR PERSONNEL HELPING RESIDENTS BUILD BIRD FEEDERS TO HANG OUTSIDE THEIR WINDOWS. CPL. AHMED APTLY NOTED THAT ISOLATION WAS A PROBLEM FOR SOME OF THESE RESIDENTS AS IT WOULD BE FOR ALL OF US. SO THE IDEA OF HAVING A REGULAR WINGED FRIEND VISIT YOU EVERY DAY, IT MAY SOUND LIKE A SMALL THING, BUT IT PAYS HUGE DIVIDENDS IN MENTAL HEALTH AND WE NOTICED AN IMMEDIATE UPTICK IN THOSE CASES. SO COUNTLESS EXAMPLES OF OUR PEOPLE ADDING THAT TOUCH OF HUMANITY, GOING OUT OF THEIR WAY TO MAKE PEOPLE'S LIVES A LITTLE BIT BETTER, I'M INCREDIBLY GRATIFIED TO RELATE THOSE STORIES.

Steve says CPL. AHMED, I WANT TO ASK YOU... HOW DO I PUT THIS? DON'T TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY, BUT YOU ARE IN ALL OF THE ANSWERS THAT YOU'VE GIVEN US HERE TONIGHT, YOU ARE REALLY NAME, RANK, AND SERIAL NUMBER. LIKE, YOU'RE REALLY DOING IT BY THE BOOK AND I'M IMPRESSED WITH YOUR PROFESSIONALISM AND HOW YOU APPEAR TO BE VERY UNEMOTIONALLY AFFECTED BY WHAT YOU HAD TO DO AND WHAT YOU SAW. AND OF COURSE THAT'S WHAT WE WANT IN A SOLDIER. WE DON'T WANT SOMEBODY BREAKING DOWN WHEN THERE'S A JOB TO BE DONE. BUT I DO NEED TO ASK WHETHER, WHEN THE DAY IS OVER AND WHEN YOU GO HOME AND WHEN THE HEAD HITS THE PILLOW, WHETHER THIS HAS AN IMPACT ON YOU?

Laila says I WOULD DEFINITELY SAY I'M PROBABLY THE OPPOSITE OF UNEMOTIONALLY AFFECTED. I TEND TO PUT A LOT OF MY HEART INTO NURSING AND INTO CARING FOR PEOPLE. THERE'S I'D SAY A TIME AND A PLACE, OBVIOUSLY, TO BE ABLE TO SORT OF HAVE THAT MOMENT TO DECOMPRESS, BUT THE EMPATHY IS ALWAYS THERE. THERE ARE CERTAIN RESIDENTS AND CERTAIN PATIENTS THAT JUST HIT YOU HARDER AND THAT YOU WILL ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU. I HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN ANY OF THEM MONTHS DOWN THE LINE AND THEY'VE CHANGED, NOW THE WAY I'M IN CIVILIAN NURSING, THEY'VE CHANGED THE WAY I AM WITH PEOPLE. I TAKE TIME TO HEAR OUT THEIR CONCERNS AND THEN AS WELL INTROSPECTIVELY LOOKING AT MYSELF AND HOW I CAN MAKE THEIR DAYS BETTER, WHETHER THEY'RE TWO DAYS OLD OR 90 YEARS OLD. IT'S DEFINITELY CHANGED ME AS A PERSON, IT'S CHANGED ME AS A NURSE. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY I WOULD SAY MOST SOLDIERS I THINK ARE MAYBE OUTWARDLY WHAT WE WOULD SAY COLD, BUT INWARDLY ARE EXTREMELY EMPATHETIC AND YOU NEED TO HAVE THAT. IN ORDER TO BE A SOLDIER, YOU NEED TO BE KIND.

Steve says JAMES STOCKER, YOU SERVED IN KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN, WHICH IS THE KIND OF MISSION WHICH I SUSPECT PEOPLE WATCHING THIS WOULD EXPECT THAT A MEMBER OF THE CANADIAN FORCES WOULD UNDERTAKE. WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO COMPARE THAT KIND OF MORE TRADITIONAL MISSION WITH THIS MISSION THAT YOU UNDERTOOK ON BEHALF OF SENIORS IN THE PROVINCE?

James says I THINK IT'S A LITTLE BIT INCOMPARABLE. EVERYBODY MISSION IS UNIQUE. THIS MISSION IS PERHAPS MORE UNIQUE THAN MOST, IF I CAN SAY THAT. BUT ONE THING THESE MISSIONS ALL HAVE IN COMMON IS THEY RELATE TO THE IDEA OF SERVICE AND PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE IN SERVICE TO CANADA AND CANADIANS. THIS IS AN IMMEDIATE EXAMPLE OF THAT. AND SO WHILE THIS MISSION, MISSIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST, MISSIONS IN AFRICA, MISSIONS ALL OVER THE WORLD WHERE CANADIAN FORCES SOLDIERS, SAILORS, AND AVIATORS SERVE, THAT'S WHAT MOTIVATES PEOPLE IN UNIFORM.

Steve says I WOULD ALSO ASSUME THAT THERE WERE MEMBERS OF THESE RESIDENCE, OF THESE LONG-TERM CARE HOMES, WHO WERE VETERANS, RIGHT? WHO SERVED BACK IN THE DAY. MAYBE 40, 50, 60 YEARS AGO, MAYBE MORE, AND I WONDER IF YOUR SOLDIERS HAD INTERACTIONS WITH THEM AND IF YOU HAVE ANY STORIES ABOUT THOSE INTERACTIONS, IF THEY TOOK PLACE, THAT YOU COULD SHARE WITH US?

The caption changes to "Lest we forget."

James says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

Steve says THAT MUST BE QUITE A CONNECTION.

James says VERY MUCH SO.

Steve says AND I DON'T KNOW HOW THIS WORKS. I KNOW SOME SOLDIERS DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THEIR SERVICE AND OTHERS ARE ALL TOO HAPPY TO TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT THEY DID AND WHERE AND WHEN AND SO ON. DID YOU HAVE SOME OF THOSE KINDS OF INTERACTIONS?

James says YEAH. THERE WERE QUITE INTIMATE PERSONAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN THE SOLDIERS, SAILORS, AND AVIATORS, WHETHER THEY BE GENERAL SERVICES OR RESIDENTS IN THE HOMES, AND NO DOUBT A LOT OF STORIES BEING SWAPPED ABOUT EXPERIENCES BOTH OVERSEAS AND DOMESTIC.

Steve says CPL. AHMED, TO YOUR KNOWLEDGE, DID YOU HAVE ANY VETS THAT YOU HAD TO CARE FOR?

Laila says WE ACTUALLY HAD QUITE A FEW ON THE FLOOR THAT WE WERE ON. IT WAS QUITE INTERESTING TO SEE THEIR FACES LIGHT UP AS SOON AS... BECAUSE WE WERE WEARING SCRUBS AT THE TIME, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOTE, SO WE WERE NOT IN COMBAT. WE WEREN'T IMMEDIATELY IDENTIFIABLE, ALONG WITH OUR GOWNS AND ALL OF OUR OTHER PPE, THEY DIDN'T NECESSARILY KNOW WHERE ALL THIS STAFF CAME FROM, THEY JUST KNEW THERE WAS NEW STAFF. OBVIOUSLY RESPECTING PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY, WE DID HAVE ONE GENTLEMAN IN HIS LATE 90s WHO WAS AN AIR FORCE VETERAN AND IT WAS JUST SIMPLY WE WERE DONE THE TASKS, ONE OF US WOULD SIT WITH HIM AND HE WOULD TELL STORIES FOR HOURS AND HOURS. AT TIMES WE WOULD TALK TO HIS DAUGHTER AND SHE WOULD SAY I'VE NEVER SEEN HIM SO HAPPY AND ALERT. IT'S NICE TO KNOW EVEN THOUGH HE'S ALONE, HE'S NOT LONELY. IT IS A BOND THAT TRANSENDS GENERATIONS AND I'M GLAD WE WERE ABLE TO SUPPORT THEM IN THEIR FINAL YEARS AND TO UNDERSTAND TO SOME DEGREE WHAT THEY WENT THROUGH IN THEIR EARLY YEARS OF THEIR LIVES.

Steve says LATE 90s. SO HE MUST HAVE BEEN A WORLD WAR II VET?

Laila says YES, HE WAS WORLD WAR II.

Steve says I APPRECIATE YOU'RE TRYING NOT TO OFFER TOO MUCH IDENTIFYING INFORMATION TO RESPECT THEIR PRIVACY, AND I APPRECIATE THAT. BUT IMAGING THE JOY THAT THEY MUST HAVE SENSED ONCE THEY REALIZED THAT YOU TOO WERE CANADIAN FORCES AND, YOU KNOW, THAT BOND THAT MUST HAVE BEEN CREATED. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

Laila says IT DEFINITELY IS VERY, VERY SPECIAL BOND AND IT'S SOMETHING WHERE, WHEN WE WERE DEPARTING FROM THE HOMES, ONCE THE HOMES HAD BEEN STABILIZED, THERE WAS A LOT OF TEARS SHED ON BOTH SIDES BECAUSE WE HAD BUILT THAT FRIENDSHIP, WE BUILT THAT MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING, AND YOU JUST SPEND HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS TALKING AND CONVERSING AND WE WOULD HAVE THE SAME CONVERSATION TEN TIMES AND IT WOULD STILL MAKE THEM VERY, VERY HAPPY. SO IT DEFINITELY IS SOMETHING I HOPE, IF I EVER GET TO THAT AGE, THAT I HAVE SOMEONE CARING FOR ME AND I CAN MAKE THAT BOND AS WELL.

Steve says I'M NOT GOING TO PRETEND THAT THIS FINAL QUESTION FOR EACH OF YOU IS ALL THAT ORIGINAL BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THE RIGHT QUESTION TO ASK ON REMEMBRANCE DAY, AND THAT IS, LIEUTENANT-COLONEL, WHY DON'T YOU START US OFF, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ON THIS REMEMBRANCE DAY?

James says I THINK ABOUT THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE ME WHO SERVED AND SACRIFICED AND HOW TO DO IN THE SMALL WAY THAT I CAN HOW BEST TO HONOUR THEIR MEMORY.

Steve says AND CPL. AHMED, HOW ABOUT YOU? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ON REMEMBRANCE DAY?

Laila says ABSOLUTELY. SO I THINK OF THE SACRIFICES THAT WERE MADE FOR GENERATIONS BEFORE, WHETHER IT'S THE GERIATRICS THAT WE WERE CARING FOR OR IF IT WAS, FOR EXAMPLE, TOURS IN AFGHANISTAN. I ALSO LIKE TO THINK FORWARD ABOUT THE FUTURE SORT OF MISSIONS THAT WILL GO ON AND WE KNOW ALREADY THAT THEY'RE NOT PREDICTABLE AT THIS POINT AND I HOPE THAT WE CONTINUE TO SUPPORT CANADIAN CITIZENS, WHETHER IT'S ON CANADIAN SOIL OR ELSEWHERE, AND THAT WE CONTINUE TO SUPPORT CANADIAN SOLDIERS WITH MENTAL HEALTH AND PEER SUPPORT SORT OF EFFORTS TO ENSURE THAT NO ONE FEELS ALONE AND THAT WE'RE ABLE TO CONTINUE ON AND COMPLETE OUR MISSIONS BUT ALSO TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER AND AS WELL AS CANADA.

The caption changes to "Producer: Harrison Lowman, @harrisonlowman."

Steve says WELL, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE HOW GRATEFUL THE FAMILIES THAT YOU HELPED FEEL ON THIS REMEMBRANCE DAY AND WE'RE GRATEFUL THAT THE TWO OF YOU COULD SPARE SOME TIME FOR OUR VIEWERS ON TVO TO LET THEM KNOW ABOUT THE WORK THAT YOU HAVE DONE. LT.-COL. JAMES STOCKER, CORPORAL LAILA AHMED. THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH.

James says THANKS VERY MUCH INDEED.

Laila says THANK YOU.

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