The military investigation into the head of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout will not derail a massive push to get shots into arms over the coming weeks, say two cabinet ministers.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan faced questions on Monday about the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service probe into Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who has stepped back from his role as head of the country’s vaccine rollout as it unfolds.
“I can assure Canadians that it won’t have any impact in terms of the operational impact,” said Qualtrough. “When someone steps aside, there’s been people training to keep the mission going.
“I have every confidence that Canadians will not feel any impact.”
O’Regan offered similar confidence that the vaccine rollout won’t be impacted, saying he has “every confidence” there are measures in place to make sure the logistics of the rollout continue smoothly.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been among those listed as taking part in an announcement with a media availability in a press release from Natural Resources Canada, and briefly spoke at the event but did not participate in the questions portion with journalists.
A government official told Global News that was a “miscommunication” by the department, and he had only been scheduled to attend as a photo opportunity.
Maj.-Gen. Fortin steps aside pending military investigation
Military head of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout steps aside amid investigation
Global News confirmed on Friday night that the investigation relates to a sexual misconduct allegation.
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4.5 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna vaccines coming to Canada this week
Fortin was named vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada in November 2020 and tasked with overseeing logistical planning for the vaccine rollout.
He also ran the National Operations Centre.
Prior to taking on the role, he was chief of staff at the Canadian Joint Operations Command and from November 2018 to the fall of 2019, he held command of the NATO mission in Iraq.
It remains unclear who will replace him as military head of the vaccine rollout.
Qualtrough told journalists she is not aware of who might replace Fortin.
READ MORE: 4.5 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna vaccines coming to Canada this week
Canada is in the midst of a major ramp-up of vaccine deliveries and distribution efforts, with millions of doses due to come into the country in May and June to speed up vaccination.
A total of 4.5 million doses are arriving in the coming days from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Provinces are opening up eligibility criteria for vaccines and roughly 40 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with that number rising to 50 per cent of adults in Ontario over the age of 18 as of last week.
Trudeau has said some restrictions could lift for a “one-dose summer” if 75 per cent of Canadians get vaccinated, with 20 per cent receiving their second doses.
The current federal timeline says every Canadian who wants the vaccine will be able to get fully vaccinated by the end of September.
Trudeau outlines his hopes for a ‘one-dose summer’ and ‘two-dose fall’
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