Happy Valley-Goose Bay opposes presence of Italian military members in town during COVID-19 pandemic


The mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay is calling out the department of national defence's decision to host an Italian military transport aircraft at CFB Goose Bay amidst COVID-19 concerns.

When Mayor Wally Andersen learned of the plans, he immediately requested a meeting with representatives from the military base Saturday morning. 

"While we were reassured that all steps will be taken to minimize risks, the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay is not comfortable with the decision of the department of national defence to move forward with this plan," Andersen said in a statement.

"I want to assure residents that the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay will continue to advocate on their behalf and that the health and safety of all is the first and foremost priority."

Katie Breen/CBC

The aircraft and its eight person crew will arrive sometime Saturday evening and is scheduled to depart sometime on Monday.

According to the statement, Mayor Anderson spoke at length with Wing Commander, Col. Stephane Racle about his concerns. Racle informed the mayor that Canada is required — as a member of NATO — to provide assistance to allies.

Additionally, the base informed Andersen that they're following strict precautions and the eight crew members were tested and confirmed negative for COVID-19 prior to leaving Italy.

Other precautionary measures being taken include isolating the Italian crew members in a secure area of the base and limiting their movements between that area and the aircraft. They will have minimal or no contact with staff, with meals being delivered without contact.

In the event that base staff should need to interact with the visiting crew members, personal protective equipment will be utilized and the secure area that housed them will be closed for four days in order to be properly sanitized.

MP proud to help ally

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones says she has spoken with both the mayor and the department of defence.

She said Canada was called upon to help support the Italian Air Force in getting aircraft based in the U.S. back to Italy safely, and Goose Bay is in a unique position to be able to support an ally in a time of need.

The federal government wouldn't authorize a mission that would put Canadians at risk, Jones said, and she's proud the base is able to step up and help other countries.

"I feel very comfortable in what the department of national defence has decided [to do]," she said.

"We are a military community, we are a military base. We are very proud of our strategic location that we have that we can support Canada in many different ways, through many different crises. This happens to be one of those times."

Katie Breen/CBC

Jones ensures that the Italian crew have been screened and that there will there will be no interaction with the public and no risk to the community.

"Strict protocols are being followed here," she said.

"They will be isolated within 5 Wing Goose Bay. They will carry out their exercises very quietly, very skillfully and certainly in a way that will be very safe and healthy for the local community."

Jones said Canada has also had to reach out to other countries to get citizens and troops back home safely, and she's happy Goose Bay is able to help.

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