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Speaking Notes for the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health: the Government’s response to the Ebola outbreak

Minister of Health Rona Ambrose, joined by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Taylor and Assistant Deputy Minister of Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Dr. Judith Bossé, makes an announcement concerning the Government’s response to the Ebola outbreak

November 3, 2014
Winnipeg, MB

Thank you. Thank you Steven, and thank you to all of you for having us here today. Today, we’re here at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, and I just want to apologize for the delay in our start. We wanted to respect the swearing in of the new Ministers in the Manitoba government. And on that note, I want to congratulate Sharon Blady, who’s the new Minister of Health here, and I look forward to continuing to work with her.

As you know, this is a world class research facility that’s dedicated to protecting Canadians and global health, whether it’s groundbreaking vaccine research, new diagnostic testing or cutting edge research software, our lab has a demonstrated record of success, working in partnership with the public health community in Canada and around the world.

While we must continue to prepare for a possible case of Ebola here at home, our government continues its commitment to assist on-the-ground efforts to combat and contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. I want to begin by sincerely thanking Canadian scientists and aid workers who have contributed to the fight against Ebola, both in Canada and on the ground in West Africa.

All Canadians are very proud and grateful for the courage and professionalism all health care professionals have shown in the face of this outbreak. Dedicated aid workers in the Ebola outbreak regions in particular, are putting their lives on the line to save others. And that is truly noble and commendable.

Today, I want to start by outlining what Canada is doing as part of this global effort. Canada, as you know, has been at the forefront of the international response since April. We recently announced an additional $30 million to international aid efforts, bringing our total financial commitment now to $65 million. And I’ll give you an update in terms of those efforts in just a moment.

Here in Canada, we also have strong systems in place to prevent the entry and spread of Ebola, and we’re here today to announce further support for preparedness here at home and new medical countermeasures in the global fight against the outbreak.

I had, this week, another meeting with my federal, provincial and territorial counterparts of Health to discuss our health system preparedness, and I can tell you that they’re all working very, very hard, in particular over the last few months, making sure all of their front line healthcare workers are properly trained and prepared.

And to support their efforts, today we are investing a million dollars to deploy additional Public Health Agency Quarantine Officers to Canadian airports to better identify and manage potential Ebola cases. In order to further strengthen Canada’s readiness at home, we’re also making available $3 million in funding to enhance community health preparedness, including supporting the provinces and territories in the delivery of infection control training and equipment.

As I said, we want to continue to work, to do everything we can to support the provinces and territories in their preparedness. And as you already know, our Ebola Rapid Response Teams stand ready to be deployed, if necessary, to support provincial, territorial and local health authorities in the event of a confirmed case of Ebola in Canada.

Dr. Taylor and I are very pleased with the outcomes of our recent meetings with provincial and territorial Health Ministers, Deputy Health Ministers and Chief Medical Officers of Health from across Canada. I can reassure you that as Health Ministers, we are all working together to share information and best practices that I know will benefit all regions throughout Canada.

In an effort to fight misinformation and fear, we will also be launching an Ebola public awareness campaign this month. We want Canadians to know the facts about Ebola, how the virus is transmitted, its symptoms and any other information they need to reduce fears of contracting the disease and reducing any stigma to returning aid workers. It’s our hope, as I said, that we’ll begin this campaign this month.

Today, I’m also pleased to announce that in addition to these existing domestic efforts, Canada is now committing an additional funding of $23.5 million for further research and development of Ebola medical countermeasures, namely vaccines and treatment. It was right here, of course, as you know, in this very lab that Canadian scientists created the experimental Ebola vaccine.

These funds announced today will help support Ebola vaccine clinical trials and to create a stockpile of the vaccine and of monoclonal antibody treatment of Ebola for use in Canada in the event of a case of Ebola and to assist in the outbreak response in West Africa.

It is of course because of the tireless work of our incredible scientists – who I think some of you are here with us today, I thank you for joining us – that the world frankly has hope that this outbreak can be and will be contained. And because of all of you, I’m very confident that we will continue to save lives. I’m also pleased to update and confirm to Canadians that Canada’s federally donated personal protective equipment has arrived on the ground in West Africa.

As well, shipments of 800 vials of Canada’s experimental Ebola vaccine have all been received now in Geneva by the World Health Organization. And to further support the invaluable work being done by the World Health Organization to bring the Ebola outbreak to an end, Canada will contribute an additional $3 million to the organization. This funding, which will come from the Department of Foreign Affairs, their Global Partnership Program will support the WHO to implement essential biosafety and biosecurity measures in West Africa, including the provision of personal protective equipment.

The Ebola outbreak, as many have said, is more than a public health issue. It has far-reaching humanitarian security and social impacts as well. This contribution from the Foreign Affairs Department and Trade demonstrate Canada’s commitment to a multidimensional Ebola response effort that addresses the many terrible implications of this deadly disease.

In addition to these significant contributions of funds and materials, Canada, as you know, has two mobile labs on the ground in West Africa. One lab continues to provide support through rapid diagnostic testing, and I look forward to speaking with the team there following our announcement, to see in detail what it is they are doing on a daily basis to contribute to this global fight.

Our second mobile lab team has also just completed a successful mission, helping Doctors Without Borders assess local infection control practices and is ready to redeploy once we learn from the World Health Organization where they are needed.

We will continue to work with the provinces and territories, our partners in Canada and around the world such as Samaritan’s Purse, Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross to track and respond appropriately to the Ebola outbreak here at home. I’d also like to take this opportunity to commend the healthcare workers here in Canada, here at home, who have played an extremely important role in our domestic preparedness response.

Thank you very much for being with us today, and I’ll now turn to Dr. Taylor to provide more details of our enhanced measures and contributions to the Ebola response. Thank you.