March 2020 - Search and Rescue

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This page was proactively published to meet the requirements of the Access to Information Act. It is a historical record which was valid when published, but may now contain information which is out of date.   


  • In Canada, search and rescue is a shared responsibility among federal, provincial/territorial and volunteer organizations.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces have the primary responsibility for aeronautical search and rescue services (search and rescue incidents involving an aircraft), whereas the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for maritime search and rescue services. The Canadian Armed Forces are also responsible for the effective operation of the coordinated aeronautical and maritime search and rescue system.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces respond to approximately 1,000 search and rescue cases annually, and these efforts save numerous lives.


  • The Canadian Armed Forces responsibility for aeronautical and maritime search and rescue extends over 18 million square kilometres of land and sea. The aeronautical search and rescue area extends from the US border to the North Pole, and from approximately 1,000 kilometers west of Vancouver Island in the Pacific Ocean to approximately 1,500 kilometers east of Newfoundland in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • To cover this area, about 950 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are delivering search and rescue services 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • On average, the Canadian Armed Forces search and rescue program is involved in the coordination of 9,000 search and rescue calls annually, approximately 1,000 of which result in the launching of search and rescue air assets. Each year, these actions provide assistance to more than 20,000 people and save more than 1,200 lives.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces is responsible for aeronautical incidents, whereas the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for marine incidents, Parks Canada is responsible for search and rescue incidents within national parks, and provincial and territorial governments are responsible for all ground related search and rescue incidents.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces is also responsible for the effective operation of the coordinated aeronautical and maritime search and rescue system. Efforts are coordinated through the three Joint Rescue Coordination Centres that are located in Victoria BC, Trenton ON, and Halifax NS.


  • Due to its vast size and range of environments, Canada relies on a diverse group of government, military, volunteer, academic, and industry partners to provide overall search and rescue services to the Canadian public.
  • The National Search and Rescue Secretariat is responsible for managing and coordinating Canada's search and rescue with federal, provincial and territorial partners, and fostering interoperability and coordination within the search and rescue community and its 15,000 trained search and rescue volunteers. The National Search and Rescue Secretariat resides within Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.
  • If more search and rescue assets are required to support a particular mission than can be made available within any one search and rescue region, the Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command can task all available Canadian Armed Forces resources from anywhere in Canada.
  • Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Coast Guard resources may also assist in ground search and rescue efforts, medical evacuations, and other humanitarian incidents if requested by provincial authorities. The Canadian Rangers will aid in ground search and rescue upon request in the remote regions in which they operate.
  • Successful search and rescue operations often rely on having the right capability at the right time. These capabilities include the right equipment, personnel, training, response posture and location, and procedures.

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