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Prime Minister’s remarks updating Canadians on COVID-19 and announcing the upcoming appointment of the new Chief of the Defence Staff

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Hello, everyone.

This morning, we got the news that Health Canada has completed their review of the Moderna vaccine, and found it to be safe and effective.

Canada has an internationally recognized process of independent review, and I know that our best experts have upheld this highest standard.

Now that Health Canada has approved the Moderna vaccine, we have the green light to start rolling it out across the country.

The first doses of our guaranteed 40 million-dose order from Moderna will arrive in the coming days.

Later today, I will be talking to Moderna’s Dr. Afeyan—a McGill graduate—about the deliveries and efforts to vaccinate Canadians as quickly as possible.

On the Pfizer vaccine, today, I also have some more good news to share.

I can announce that we will be receiving an additional quarter of a million doses from Pfizer next month.

That takes us up to a total of almost 751,000 Pfizer vaccine doses for January.

Between the early doses we’ve already received, and the shipments now scheduled, we’re on track to have at least 1.2 million doses from both Pfizer and Moderna delivered by January 31.

We have started to vaccinate those who are most vulnerable and front line workers.

Already, these vaccines will help us save lives.

And while our workers are distributing the vaccines as quickly as possible, we are continuing to do everything we can to keep people safe.

Our government has agreed to keep providing federal support to the Canadian Red Cross in Quebec.

So the 500 people working in long-term care facilities will stay there until at least March 31.

At that time, Quebec should be able to assume full management of those facilities and regain control of the situation.

Our government’s top priority is keeping Canadians safe.

As cases keep rising, we will continue to be there for communities that need additional, targeted support.  

Just last week, our government also committed to additional civilian support for Red Sucker Lake in Manitoba, and a Canadian Armed Forces deployment to Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario to support elders and vulnerable community members.

This is in addition to the requests we approved for the Red Cross in long-term care homes in Ontario, and for isolation sites in Windsor-Essex.

The Red Cross has done outstanding work over the last year to keep people safe.

As we deal with this second wave, we need their expertise more than ever.

That’s why today, I can announce that we are investing an additional $70 million to support their work. Half of this funding will go toward the Red Cross COVID-19 Testing Assistance Response teams, which support communities on testing capacity.  

The other half of the funding is for the Red Cross Outbreak Crisis Management teams, which help with everything from isolation sites to mental health services.

To everyone helping on the ground, whether you’re with the Canadian Red Cross or you serve in the Canadian Armed Forces:

You’re doing remarkable work.

Whenever we need you, you’re there to help.

During floods, wildfires, and now COVID-19, you consistently step up. Step toward trouble. Step toward danger to keep your fellow Canadians safe. Thank you for everything you are doing.

I know many members of the Canadian Armed Forces are apart from family right now, serving at home and around the world to protect us.

So thank you for everything you do. And a special thank you to your families and kids who might miss you an awful lot this Christmas. We’re thinking of you.

To all our men and women in uniform: thank you.

On that note, today, I can announce that we will be appointing a new Chief of Defence Staff.

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, who is currently the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, will take on this role as General Jonathan Vance retires from the Armed Forces.

Vice-Admiral McDonald brings decades of experience and service.

He has played leadership roles in many areas, including leading humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, and has commanded a multinational task group in the High Arctic, among other things.

I know that he will continue to be a strong leader for the Canadian Armed Forces as they work to protect Canadians at home and defend our values around the world.

I want to thank General Vance for his service, including as the longest-serving Chief of Defence Staff.

General Vance has led the Canadian Armed Forces as they defended our country against military threats, deployed overseas, and protected Canadians at home from everything from floods to now COVID-19.

Thank you, General Vance, for your leadership.

In his new role as Chief, Vice-Admiral McDonald will oversee the work of the Canadian Armed Forces, including on vaccine rollout through Operation VECTOR.

The Canadian Armed Forces have been part of the national response to this pandemic since the spring, whether deployed to long-term care homes or helping with contact tracing.

I know that Vice-Admiral McDonald’s leadership and expertise will be invaluable as the Armed Forces continue to work around the clock to keep Canadians safe.

This afternoon, I also want to say a few words about travelling and the holidays.

Let’s be clear: this is not the time for a vacation abroad.

Even if you travel every winter—please rethink your plans.

In many parts of the country, hospitals are already struggling to cope with new cases.

There are new strains of the disease in places like the United Kingdom.

The situation is very serious.

By staying home, by following public health rules, you can be part of the solution. 

Canada continues to have significant travel and border measures in place for anyone entering the country.

Unlike most of our allies, we have a mandatory two-week quarantine, including for Canadians returning to the country.   

In March, we brought in these measures—which continue to be some of the strongest in the world—to keep people safe and save lives.

Today, just like on day one, protecting you and your family is our top priority.

That’s why, in addition to the significant measures we already have in place, we acted quickly on additional travel restrictions in response to the situation in the United Kingdom.

On Sunday, I convened the Incident Response Group to discuss the new variant of COVID-19 that has been identified in the U.K.

Our government temporarily suspended all commercial and private passenger flights from the U.K. to Canada.

Today, I can announce that we will extend this temporary suspension of passenger flights from the U.K. to Canada for another two weeks—until January 6—so we can prevent this new variant of COVID-19 from spreading in Canada.

If you have arrived from the U.K. recently, the Government of Canada has been in the process of reaching out with more directions.

Airports should not be crowded.

Even if you travel abroad every year, the circumstances are very different right now.

And if you decide to travel anyway, when you return, you must quarantine for 14 days.

There could be serious consequences for anyone not following this rule.

Our priority is to keep everyone safe.

These holidays will be tough for a lot of people.

I think of everyone who can’t be with family, or lost someone they loved.  

It’s been less than a year since Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was shot down killing all those on board, and less than two years since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.  

To the families and friends who will be spending the holidays without a loved one: you will be in our thoughts.

In honour of the victims, we are working to establish January 8 of every year as the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Air Disasters.

Their memories and their stories will not be forgotten.

And to everyone who’s lost someone this year to this terrible virus:

I want to extend my deepest condolences.

We are standing with you. We are grieving with you.

You are not alone.

We have faced far too many tragedies in 2020.

This was not how we wanted to spend the year, let alone Christmas.

The days are short, there isn’t much sun. 

And as Canadians, we know that it’s about sticking together so we can get through a winter that’s too long and too cold.

So, do the right thing. Stay home.

Protect your loved ones, our front line workers, our doctors, our nurses, and our seniors.

As Canadians, we stick together when times get tough. It’s just what we do.

We can’t afford to let up now, so keep doing your part.

This is not the time for Christmas or New Year’s parties.

This is the time to continue wearing a mask, to keep your distance, to avoid gatherings, and to download and use the COVID Alert app.

In other words—please, continue to protect those around you.

Our country has been through difficult Christmases before.

There have been times when our grandparents and parents couldn’t be with family, or had to put traditions on hold.

They had faith that better days would come around.

Well, this Christmas, it’s our turn.

It’s up to us to protect each other.

It’s up to us to pull together, to hold on, and to know, however dark the winter may be, spring is coming and better days will be back.

Merry Christmas everyone and happy holidays.

Stay safe, stay well, and together we will get through this.

Thank you very much.