Government of Canada announces $2.1 million to enhance search and rescue capabilities for people living with dementia 

News release

June 29, 2022

Ottawa, Ontario

The number of people with dementia who go missing is steadily increasing across the country and delays in locating them can result in tragic outcomes.

Today, the Honourable Bill Blair, President of the Queen’s Privy Council and Minister of Emergency Preparedness, announced $2.1 million in funding to support a three-year University of Waterloo research project to enhance Canada’s search and rescue system to better respond when people living with dementia go missing.

Sixty percent of people living with dementia will wander away at least once and some of them will do so repeatedly. This has an impact on search and rescue resources.

The project, entitled Managing Risks of Going Missing among Persons Living with Dementia by Building Capacities of SAR Personnel, First Responders and Communities, will help to build the capacity and understanding within the search and rescue community to work with this vulnerable population, build research partnerships and increase systemic coordination.

As the rates of dementia in Indigenous populations are disproportionately higher than the general Canadian population, this project will also develop protocols for first responders in two Indigenous communities as part of their work in seven provinces.

The Government of Canada is proud to support initiatives like this one, that will result in more effective and better-coordinated search and rescue capacity, and help keep Canadians safe.


“Our population is aging and along with it, the number of people who go missing due to dementia is increasing. Through this partnership with the University of Waterloo, we will be able to build capacities, partnerships and coordination of search and rescue personnel, first responders, and communities to manage risks among persons living with dementia, and keep these vulnerable members of our communities safe.”

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

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the incredible quality of work being done by researchers and faculty at the University of Waterloo. I look forward to seeing the results and impacts of their project over the coming weeks, months, and years, as they continue to find world-class solutions that are helping our most vulnerable communities stay safe. Congratulations, and thank you for everything you do for the people of Waterloo and Canadians.”

- The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Member of Parliament for Waterloo

"This new initiative emphasizes the importance of ensuring safe communities for Canadians. The increasing numbers of Canadians living with dementia at risk of going missing is a public health concern. We will build on existing expertise and partnerships to scale up strategies that enhance training, improve data collection, coordinate community resources, and prevent repeat missing incidents.”

- Lili Liu, Dean of Faculty of Health, Professor in School of Public Health Sciences, University of Waterloo

Quick facts

  • The University of Waterloo will work with the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba and with Kahnawake Search and Rescue, Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec. The project is developing additional partnerships in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. 

  • If a missing person with Alzheimer’s disease is not found within 12 hours, there is a 50 percent chance that they will be found injured or dead from hypothermia, dehydration or drowning, making any search an emergency. 

  • Much of the data available on wandering is from the United States. This project will involve data collection approaches to monitor the issue in Canada where climate, geography, funding, and culture differ.

  • The Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund, provides $7.6M in annual funding for projects that will improve search and rescue in Canada. This fund is designed to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and innovation of search and rescue in Canada. 

Associated links


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

University of Waterloo
Eugenia Xenos Anderson
Faculty of Health,
519-888-4567, ext. 43994

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