Government of Canada funds NGOs to build capacity, respond to emergencies, and keep communities safe

News release

May 4, 2022             
Ottawa, Ontario                   

Throughout Emergency Preparedness Week, the Government of Canada is working alongside partners across the country to highlight how important it is to Be Ready for Anything. The past two years have shown all of us that large scale emergencies – like a pandemic – can strain our resources. When these events happen, the federal government is a partner for provinces and territories ensuring that their needs are met and responded to quickly through Requests for Federal Assistance (RFAs). This includes supporting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in responding to events such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and increasingly frequent climate-change related disasters from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

Today, the Honourable Bill Blair, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness, announced $150 million for the Supporting a Humanitarian Workforce to Respond to COVID-19 and Other Large-Scale Emergencies (HWF) program to support both capacity building and domestic response resources to four of Canada’s top emergency management NGOs.

To date, the Government of Canada has provided more than $78 million to the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, The Salvation Army, and the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC) through this investment. This funding has allowed these organizations to mobilize in response to emerging events more quickly and deploy critical on-the-ground support to provincial, territorial and local governments.

Specifically, this funding has gone to support vital services on the ground for several provinces and all three territories that have requested federal assistance, including critical care nurses in hospitals, support in long-term care facilities and retirement homes, and epidemic prevention and control, and vaccination support. It has also supported deployments to respond to outbreaks in remote Indigenous communities.

In 2022-23, the program will continue to provide funding for these organizations to build their capacity, hire staff, rapidly deploy to areas impacted by emergencies, and fund deployments in response to RFAs that may arise. With this funding, organizations will continue to maintain a highly skilled and qualified group of emergency responders and emergency management professionals, will help fund the development of emergency management systems, deliver top-tier training, and acquire some equipment needed for rapid mobilization.


“Through this program, we’re supporting Canadians who step up to serve their neighbours, and the organizations that facilitate this important work. Today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to ensure that our emergency management organizations can mobilize quickly, and have the tools and resources they need to continue providing relief to Canadians in times of need.”

—   The Honourable Bill Blair, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness

“The Red Cross is known around the world for its ability to quickly mobilize and provide support to communities affected by large-scale disasters. Over the past two years, through the support of the Government of Canada, the Canadian Red Cross has deployed more than 7,500 personnel in response to COVID-19 and other emergencies from coast to coast. Together, our efforts have resulted in an increased capacity to respond and support long-term care homes, vaccinations, and in response to devastating fires and flooding across the country.”

—   Conrad Sauvé, President and CEO, Canadian Red Cross

“St. John Ambulance is proud to be part of the Humanitarian Workforce Program.  We look forward to working with the other NGO’s to provide emergency health services to Canadians in times of need. We remain committed to helping Canadians improve their resilience in the face of emergencies wherever they may occur.”

—   Jerry Rankin, Chief Executive Officer, St. John Ambulance – National Office

“Since the Halifax Explosion in 1917, The Salvation Army has been there for Canadians facing emergencies of all sizes. From the British Columbia floods to ongoing emergency response in the face of COVID-19, support from the Humanitarian Workforce Program helped us serve more Canadians last year than ever before, filling urgent needs, providing hope and letting people know they’re not alone.”

—   Commissioner Floyd Tidd, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army Canada

“SARVAC is honoured to be an integral part of the Humanitarian Workforce Program, along with other NGO's. This program and its federal support will allow us to provide emergency assistance to communities in need across Canada for many years to come."

—   Janelle Coultes, President, Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada

Quick facts

  • A humanitarian workforce can rapidly deploy to provide surge capacity to support emergency responses to major events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and other all hazards events, such as flooding and wildfires. 

  • Since its inception, 14 deployments have been funded under the HWF program. Additionally, 11 deployments have previously been funded under the Readiness of the Canadian Red Cross for Urgent Relief Efforts Related to Covid-19, Floods and Wildfires program.

  • To date, the Canadian Red Cross has provided assistance in over 90 long term care facilities and 13 isolated travellers sites; administered over 90,000 vaccines and over 1,500 COVID-19 tests. This includes activities funded under the deployment stream of the program, as well as bilateral engagements with provinces and territories, drawing on the capabilities supported by the capacity-building stream of the program.

  • The 2020 Fall Economic Statement announced its intention to invest $150 million over two years, starting in 2021-22, to support the Canadian Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations in building and maintaining a humanitarian workforce to provide surge capacity in response to COVID-19 outbreaks and other large-scale emergencies.

  • This initiative supports the priorities of the Emergency Management Strategy for Canada which seek to strengthen the resilience of Canadian society by 2030. This investment contributes to enhancing disaster response capacity and coordination and fosters the development of new capabilities.

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Annie Cullinan
Press Secretary
Office of the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness

Media Relations
Public Safety Canada

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