Operation ELEMENT comes to an end

Tents in a parking lot.
Members of 2 Canadian Division and Joint Task Force (East) install the last modular tents, including heating and lighting equipment, to increase the total temporary accommodation capacity in the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle sector to 1,200 places, August 17, 2017. Corporal Djalma Vuong-De Ramos, BAP 2 DIV CA / FOI (East)

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By: Lieutenant (Navy) Éliane Trahan, Public Affairs Officer, Support Group of the 2nd Canadian Division

Operation ELEMENT, the Canadian Armed Forces operation to provide temporary accommodation for asylum seekers at the Canada-US border, has come to an end. Approximately 300 Regular and Reserve Force personnel and civilian personnel from various units from the 2nd and 4th Canadian Divisions were deployed on this operation. They contributed their unique capabilities to support civilian authorities in managing asylum seekers at the border. Operation ELEMENT, which lasted more than 17 weeks, permitted federal and civilian partners to focus their efforts on managing the influx of claimants seeking refugee status in Canada.

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  • Soldiers unload equipment from a truck.
  • Soldiers building floors using power tools.
  • Soldiers building floors using power tools.

Involvement

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) were instrumental in developing two temporary accommodation sites in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, and Cornwall, Ontario. They performed the following tasks:

  • Preparing sites for the installation of equipment and modular tents;
  • Establishing temporary facilities and equipment for tent installation;
  • Installing modular tents;
  • Manufacturing and installing rigid wood floors, as well as installing heating and lighting devices in the tents for the comfort of the housed people;
  • Maintaining equipment post installation.

The CAF also ensured that among the deployed personnel were several military women and some members who could express themselves in Creole. Keeping the claimants’ cultural sensibilities in mind as well as the vulnerability of the families hosted at the accommodation sites, the CAF facilitated exchanges.

Timeline

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  • Military vehicles on a street.
  • Soldiers build a camp in a field.

August 9, 2017

The Government of Canada requests assistance from the CAF to support civilian authorities with finding temporary shelters for asylum seekers at the border.

Soldiers from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Valcartier head to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle to install a temporary accommodation site including modular tents, heating and lighting equipment. This site has the ability to host 500 people. The military is not responsible for the management of the site; civilian personnel have this authority.

August 10, 2017

The CAF receives the request from the Government of Canada to add 700 additional spaces, for a total of 1200 spaces.

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  • Soldiers build a camp in a field.
  • Group photo of military members in a camp with tents.
  • Beds in a tent.

August 14, 2017

59 modular tents that can temporarily accommodate 900 people are now available.

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  • Tents in a parking lot.
  • Soldiers build a camp in a field.

August 17, 2017

The site is now complete and 75 modular tents are available to temporarily accommodate 1200 people.

CAF equipment is maintained by reservists from 34th and 35th Canadian Brigade Groups, and logistical support is shifted to the Technical Services of the 2nd Canadian Division Support Group.

Royal Canadian Dragoons carry tables to install them in the tent city they constructed at the Nav Canada Center in Cornwall, Ontario during Operation ELEMENT, August 18, 2017.  Photo: Cpl Veldman, Garrison Imaging Petawawa

August 18, 2017

Following a request from the Government of Canada, the CAF establishes a new temporary accommodation site at the NAV CANADA Centre in Cornwall, Ontario. This site is able to accommodate 500 people, in addition to the 300 people that can be accommodated by NAV CANADA within its existing infrastructure. Soldiers deployed in Cornwall come from the Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signal Squadron in Petawawa.

September 22, 2017

The soldiers dismantle part of the facility to phase out equipment at the two temporary accommodation sites in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle and Cornwall. CAF members continue to remove equipment and installed materials in an efficient and deliberate manner without the need for additional personnel.

Members of the Royal Canadian Dragoons speak with reservist personnel from 33 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group at the Nav Canada Center in Cornwall, Ontario during Operation ELEMENT, August 21, 2017. Photo: Cpl Veldman, Garrison Imaging Petawawa

October 1, 2017

As the federal government is now able to process applications from all new irregular migrants in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, the NAV CANADA Centre is no longer required as a transitional temporary accommodation site. The modular tents are removed and the soldiers return to their units.

Brigadier-General Hercule Gosselin, Commander 2nd Canadian Division and Joint Task Force East, visit the asylum-seekers accommodation camp to discuss and clarify the requirements for the camp with Mr. Pierre Prévost, Executive Director of the Quebec Region of the Canada Border Services Agency, near the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing during Operation ELEMENT, August 10, 2017.  Photo: Corporal Myki Poirier-Joyal, St-Jean/Montreal Imagery Section

October 13, 2017

Following a request from Public Services and Procurement Canada, the CAF continues the gradual and sequential dismantling of the facilities at the temporary accommodation site located in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. According to the needs identified in collaboration with federal partners, a temporary accommodation with a capacity for approximately 200 people remains available.

Image gallery

  • Vehicles move floor boards.
  • Vehicles move floor boards.

November 24, 2017

The CAF dismantles facilities at the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle temporary accommodation site. 50 spaces remain available pending completion of the winterizing phase undertaken by the Canada Border Services Agency.

December 1, 2017

The military members continue dismantling the CAF’s last facility in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle to make way for winterized trailers and takes the necessary precautions in order to restore the site to its original state.

December 12, 2017

The CAF is no longer providing temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

Once again, CAF members were diligent and professional in the performance of their duties. When the situation demands it, they are ready to support by quickly and efficiently providing equipment, logistical support and materials needed for the overall response provided by federal and civilian partners.

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