Government of Canada continues to build disaster response capacity to large-scale disasters

News release

July 11, 2023

Ottawa, Ontario

Across the country, Canadians are more and more often facing the realities of natural disasters – like wildfires, floods and hurricanes. The Government of Canada’s priority is always keeping people safe. When these events occur, the federal government responds to requests for assistance from provinces and territories to help coordinate support when and where it’s needed. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are a key part of Canadian response efforts.

Today, the Honourable Bill Blair, President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness, announced an additional $82 million over three years for the Supporting a Humanitarian Workforce to Respond to COVID-19 and Other Large-Scale Emergencies (HWF) program. This funding builds on investments initially made under the program when it was established in year 2021.

The funding announced today will allow the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, The Salvation Army and the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC) to maintain a highly skilled and qualified group of volunteer emergency responders and emergency management professionals who can rapidly deploy on short notice to support the response to emergency events. Additionally, this funding will enable them to recruit and train response teams, purchase equipment and supplies, strengthen governance, and adapt their protocols and procedures to address the needs of specific communities, including vulnerable populations.

As the Government invests in everything from training more wildfire fighters, to Canada’s first National Adaptation Strategy, today’s announcement represents another important step in building readiness and response capacity, to keep pace with the evolving risk environment. The Government of Canada will continue to work closely with provinces, territories, Indigenous partners, NGOs and other stakeholders as we work to bolster our pan-Canadian civilian response capacity and keep Canadians and their communities safe and healthy.


“The growing impacts of more frequent and severe natural disasters are being felt in communities right across the country.  Non-governmental organizations are often among the first on the scene and provide crucial supports when disasters strike. That is why the Government of Canada is making this important investment, to help build and maintain their capacity so that they can continue to respond to large-scale emergencies across the country and be there when Canadians need them.”

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

“The Canadian Red Cross is grateful for this investment from the Government of Canada and the momentum it carries for a humanitarian workforce ready to respond during disasters or emergencies. This year’s wildfire season in Canada is hitting hard and fast and we continue to work closely with governments, Indigenous leadership, and communities to help people who have been impacted. Red Cross teams remain committed to humanitarian work, and this support to increase our capacity to respond during a disaster or emergency will be of benefit to people across the country.”

- Conrad Sauvé, President and CEO, Canadian Red Cross

“As a humanitarian organization, St. John Ambulance has a demonstrated history of providing emergency health services to Canadians during times of emergency and disaster. This critical support from the Humanitarian Workforce Program will help to ensure our network of 12,000 qualified volunteers, in more than 300 communities, is prepared to rapidly mobilize and respond to large-scale emergencies across the country.”

- Martin Gangnier, Chief Executive Officer, St. John Ambulance – National Office

“We are grateful for the support and trust in The Salvation Army as we stand shoulder to shoulder in times of crisis. The Humanitarian Workforce funding empowers us to strengthen our capacity to respond to emergencies, and mobilize our volunteers in communities across Canada, ensuring the safety and well-being of our fellow Canadians. This partnership exemplifies the power of collective action and reinforces our shared commitment to service amid suffering.”

- Floyd J. Tidd, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda

“Support from the Government of Canada plays a significant role in SARVAC’s ability to respond to communities in need of support across Canada. Our members are ready at a moment’s notice to respond to emergencies, and through the Humanitarian Workforce Program we are able to substantially increase our response capabilities in the event of any natural disasters.”

- 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, such as flooding and wildfires. 

  • To date, the Government of Canada has provided more than $166.9 million to the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, The Salvation Army, and SARVAC through the Humanitarian Workforce program, that has allowed these organizations to develop capacity to mobilize more quickly in response to past events and deploy critical on-the-ground support to provincial, territorial and local governments.

  • The humanitarian workforce 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.

  • Additionally, the program supports the National Adaptation Strategy’s objectives to build resilient communities and to reduce the risk of climate-related disasters.

Associated links


Joanna Kanga
Press Secretary
Office of the President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness

Media Relations
Public Safety Canada

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