The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, and the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, issued the following statement today after the tabling of the report by the Auditor General of Canada on the performance audit on pandemic preparedness and response:
“We thank the Auditor General for her important work. During this pandemic, the Government of Canada has adapted its response as the world learned more about the virus. It is critical that the lessons learned from our response help Canada improve. This is why today we confirm to Canadians that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) accept all the recommendations from this audit.
To protect Canadians, PHAC and CBSA have adapted their response over the course of this pandemic, from mobilizing public health measures to working quickly to implement new rules and provide guidance. To strengthen their response to COVID-19, the Government of Canada has provided funding and resources, including $690.7 million over two years in the Fall 2020 Economic Statement. This funding and the lessons learned will allow CBSA and the Public Health Agency to keep adjusting their approach, informed by the latest available scientific evidence and epidemiology– with the objective of always keeping Canadians safe.”
- The Auditor General’s audit covered the period of January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020. Since June 2020, PHAC and CBSA have taken further action, and work is already underway relating to the audit recommendations, such as:
- On public health data and information sharing across Canadian jurisdictions—in October 2020, PHAC implemented a National COVID-19 Public Health Data Portal to support COVID-19 data collection, sharing and management, and is working with the federal, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders to develop a pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy;
- On the early detection of public health events—an independent review of Canada’s global public health surveillance system, the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), is underway to ensure it continues to meet today’s public health needs, including its role in global and domestic public health surveillance. An External Review Panel is currently conducting this review, with a final report and recommendations expected later this spring;
- On COVID-19 border and travel health measures—CBSA and PHAC continue to work collaboratively. CBSA expanded its support for frontline border services officers (BSO) beyond the existing operational guideline bulletins, 24/7 live support access and regular case reviews. CBSA supplemented support by conducting detailed technical briefings prior to implementing new or amended Orders in Council (OICs). CBSA has also established a process to monitor decisions made by BSOs as they relate to the application of OICs for essential service providers and is developing a training tool to assist BSOs in understanding the complexities of OICs; and
- On COVID-19 mandatory quarantine administration—in November 2020, PHAC transitioned to mandatory submission of contact information and quarantine plans via the ArriveCAN phone app and website, which has significantly improved the collection of traveller information and supported the verification of compliance with mandatory requirements.