Ground Search and Rescue in Canada


© Sean Taylor at Saskatoon Search and Rescue

The Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC) is a registered not-for-profit and educational organization that supports, coordinates, develops, informs, promotes and implements search, rescue and emergency response with the underlying principle of saving lives.

SARVAC is administered by volunteers who train and practice search, rescue and survival skills in various parts of Canada. The organization is supported by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat and is funded through donations and fundraising events. SARVAC takes pride in offering a vital national service. In addition to its search and rescue activities, it provides a medium for liaison and the exchange of information among federal, provincial/territorial, local, and volunteer search and/or rescue agencies and organizations.

Established in 1996, SARVAC is a federally incorporated registered Canadian Charity that provides a national voice for ground search and rescue volunteers in Canada.

We address issues of common concern to develop consistency, promote standardization or portability of programs and volunteers, and deliver initiatives that benefit and support all ground search and rescue volunteers in Canada and the general public.

SARVAC represents Canada’s thirteen provincial and territorial volunteer Ground Search and Rescue Associations. SARVAC’s Board of Directors is comprised of volunteer representatives from each province and territory. Ultimately, SARVAC represents the interests of 9,000 Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) volunteers throughout Canada who collectively provide over 600,000 person-hours to search and rescue services on land and inland waters.

SAR Prevention

SARVAC is a key partner of the AdventureSmart program. AdventureSmart is a national program encouraging Canadians and visitors to Canada to “get informed and go outdoors.” The program combines online and on-site awareness with targeted outreach in five programs—Hug a Tree and Survive, Survive Outside, Snow Safety & Education, Survive Outside-Snowmobile Safety, and PaddleSmart.

AdventureSmart provides free web-based and mobile Trip Plan APP, interactive kids game, a comprehensive website, and recently developed E-Learning training programs. SARVAC volunteers offer in-person and virtual presentations, Trainer and Outdoor Educator training, and outreach materials.

Over the past five years, SARVAC volunteers have delivered 5,610 AdventureSmart presentations to 237,449 members of the public, contributing 31,532 volunteer hours (valued at $788,300).

Photo © Courtesy of Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada

Humanitarian Workforce

SARVAC has recently been very active in Public Safety Canada’s Supporting a Humanitarian Workforce to Respond to COVID-19 and Other Large-Scale Emergencies (HWF) program.

With the implementation of Phase 2 of the SARVAC HWF Program, development is now well underway, focusing on increasing our readiness capacity and deployment ability through the following:

  • Continued development of governance and operational documents.
  • Developing Interim Operations and Logistics support for the SARVAC HWF Program.
  • Developing a system to provide Mobile and Scalable Logistics.
  • Implementing a Data Management System.
  • Purchasing Basic readiness Kits and Supplies to support future HWF deployments.
  • Building the capacity of the SARVAC office to support the HWF program by hiring staff and consultants.
  • Developing Agreements with the Provinces and Territories.
  • Development and Implementation of an Indigenous and Remote Community Engagement program.


Are you looking to join a local SAR team? Recruitment of volunteers is conducted by the local GSAR teams within their regions of operation. Social media and recruitment events are methods utilized. To locate a GSAR near you, head to, find the link to your provincial or territorial association, then find the team nearest you.

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The Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC) is a registered not-for-profit and educational organization that supports, coordinates, develops, informs, promotes and implements CSA-approved search and rescue emergency response with the underlying principle of saving lives.


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