Page Content

In Canada, the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for search and rescue; each has authority within its own jurisdiction and they collectively make up the National Search and Rescue Program.

The National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) is responsible for National SAR Program policy, planning, coordination and reporting. There are three Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCCs) established to coordinate response to both aeronautical and marine search and rescue incidents. (JRCCs) responded to over 10,000 incidents in 2012. While the incidents varied in severity, approximately 25,000 persons received some form of assistance.

The largest jurisdiction for ground and inland water search and rescue in Canada is that of the provinces and territories. The level of government involvement varies across the country, but many emergency measures organizations are actively involved in SAR program coordination, training, and evaluation. The responsibility for front-line SAR operations is generally delegated by provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to their respective police service of jurisdiction.

Parks Canada is responsible for providing ground and inland water search and rescue services within park boundaries. There are over 5,000 ground SAR incidents each year in Canada.

While the nature and location of a SAR incident determines responsibility, SAR is frequently multi-jurisdictional. Provincial and territorial SAR resources often provide an important complement to federal assets because many aeronautical and marine SAR cases require the assistance of land-based resources. Conversly, federal resources often assist during ground and inland water SAR incidents as well, providing the best possible resources to help those in need.

Volunteers are fundamental to the search and rescue system in Canada. They provide a trained and organized resource that is often called upon in SAR operations, and they help raise awareness to prevent SAR incidents among the general population. Ground search and rescue volunteers are organized into accredited teams and, in many cases, provincial associations. The national-level body which represents ground and inland SAR volunteers is the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC).

These volunteers support police and emergency measures organizations with both front line response and with delivering community-based awareness programs aimed at preventing SAR incidents.

Volunteer responders donated over 400,000 hours of their time on callouts and an astounding 95% of the subjects were found in the first 24 hours.