Canada's National Disaster Mitigation Strategy

Canada's National Disaster Mitigation Strategy PDF Version (136 KB)
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This Strategy is based on the recognition by federal, provincial, and territorial governments that mitigation is an important part of a robust emergency management framework, and that all stakeholders are committed to working together to support disaster mitigation in Canada.

The purposes of this document are:

1.0 Overview

1.1 Context

Nationally and internationally, the frequency of natural disasters is increasing. The cumulative effect of these disasters produces a significant personal, material and economic strain on individuals, communities and the fiscal capacity of all levels of governments.

Prevention/mitigation Footnote 1 (herein after referred to as 'mitigation') strategies can reduce or prevent disasters, losses and emergency response and recovery costs that would otherwise be incurred. Mitigation is a key element of emergency management which to date has received relatively little emphasis in spite of increasing disaster costs. Through the implementation of this national disaster mitigation strategy, disaster risk reduction benefits can be achieved, to the benefit of individuals, communities and infrastructure.

Mitigation actions provide significant return on investment. Benefit-cost ratios for flood prevention measures in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom are 3:1, 4:1 and 5:1, respectively. In Canada, $63.2 million invested in the Manitoba Red River Floodway in 1960 has saved an estimated $8 billion in potential damage and recovery costs. By emphasizing mitigation, Canada's built environment (e.g. public utilities, transportation systems, telecommunications, housing, hospitals and schools) can be designed to withstand the impacts of extreme natural forces.

In support of the federal Emergency Management Act and similar Provincial/Territorial (PT) legislation,this document outlines the components of the National Disaster Mitigation Strategy (NDMS) as a collaborative effort to develop sustainable, disaster-resilient communities across Canada.

This Strategy, developed collaboratively by the federal, provincial and territorial governments, sets out a comprehensive, multi-dimensional approach that anticipates joint contributions, community-based partnerships, and national-level initiatives.

1.2 Scope

FPT governments have worked together to develop this National Disaster Mitigation Strategy for Canada. Responding directly to national consultation findings, the NDMS supports all-hazards emergency management, with an initial focus on reducing risk posed by natural hazards, an area that stakeholders agree requires urgent attention.

While the Strategy does not replace existing enterprise risk management programs at all government levels, the incorporation of NDMS principles into Federal/Provincial/ Territorial (FPT) initiatives will benefit the management of internal government risks.

Mitigation actions include all structural and non-structural risk treatments appropriate to hazards, and leverage or incorporate new, existing and developing disaster risk reduction programs.

Finally, the Strategy acknowledges that disaster mitigation includes measures enacted at the local government level, which are critical to creating safe, secure and prosperous communities across Canada.

1.3 Goal and Guiding Principles

In January 2005, the FPT Ministers Responsible for Emergency Management approved the following goals and principles for disaster mitigation.

The goal of the National Disaster Mitigation Strategy is:

To protect lives and maintain resilient, sustainable communities by fostering disaster risk reduction as a way of life.

The principles reflect the essence of what the National Disaster Mitigation Strategy aims to achieve and how it should be developed. The principles are:

2.0 Program Elements

The proposed Strategy will establish ongoing national disaster mitigation program activity areas. Implementation of program activities will be structured around four key elements:

2.1 Leadership and Coordination

Leadership is essential in the coordination of a national strategy, and in successfully gaining the benefits of mitigation investments.

1 – FPT Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management will work collaboratively with all stakeholders to promote and facilitate disaster mitigation initiatives within their own jurisdictions.

The FPT Ministers agree to:

2.2 Public Awareness, Education and Outreach

Disaster mitigation is most effective when activities engage the community. Therefore, public awareness and education initiatives should be a priority.

2 – Through the NDMS, FPT partners will work with multiple stakeholders to enhance public awareness of risks and mitigation opportunities.

The FPT Ministers agree to:

2.3 Knowledge and Research

The NDMS recognises that sustainable Canadian mitigation activities must draw from and build upon domestic and international mitigation research initiatives, scientific developments, best practices, and lessons learned from disaster events. The NDMS will support new and ongoing research efforts that build a knowledge base for mitigation decisions. Research is essential to the program.

3 – Apply and promote scientific and engineering best practices in order to build a knowledge base for sustainable, cost-effective mitigation decisions that contribute to community resiliency.

The FPT Ministers agree to:

2.4 FPT Mitigation Investments

A successful mitigation strategy depends on contributions at all levels of government. The NDMS should leverage, acknowledge and encourage new, developing and existing mitigation activities (e.g. climate change adaptation, seismic safety, dam safety, transportation and storage of dangerous goods).

4 – Develop and leverage new and existing mitigation strategies and initiatives.

The FPT Ministers agree to:

3.0 Governance

3.1 Governance Requirements

A governing structure is needed that addresses the current piecemeal approach to mitigation by concentrating informed decision-making in an effective framework.

A governance structure that engages and enhances local-level responsibility is more effective than a top-down approach, especially considering the many opportunities for partnering in local mitigation projects.

The selected governance structure should include opportunities to seek advice from a broad range of stakeholders on an ongoing basis.

3.2 Governance Model

Strategy activities will be implemented within a shared FPT governance structure, with stakeholders working together with through appropriate channels to ensure the NDMS contributes to the development of sustainable and resilient communities. Activities under the Strategy will be implemented over time on an incremental, step-by-step basis, building on good practices and results achieved.

The illustration in Figure 1 summarizes the proposed governance structure for the NDMS.

This governance model requires participation and commitment of resources at all levels of government.

This diagram is described in the text that follows

Figure 1: Governance Structure for the NDMS.

National Level – Roles

FPT Ministers – Roles

Deputy Ministers – Roles

SOREM – Roles

FPT Centre for Mitigation Excellence – Roles

Ad-hoc Working Groups – Roles

Provincial / Territorial Level – Roles

Local Government Level – Roles

3.3 Accountability

Accountability means adherence to national guidelines, regular reporting, and audit or review by the next highest oversight organization.

Citizens expect their governments to work together collaboratively, and to be accountable for public spending and the results achieved through public investments.

To ensure accountability under the NDMS:

Individual projects funded through the NDMS may also be reviewed and audited to identify best practices and provide Ministers with assurance of results achieved.

4.0 Priority Actions for Implementation

The NDMS is premised on an incremental approach to implementation, based on the four program elements and a collaborative FPT approach to governance. Program elements and the governance model for the NDMS are flexible and scalable, allowing investments to be adjusted to reflect changes in priorities and to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.

Leadership and Coordination

Public Awareness, Education and Outreach

Knowledge and Research

FPT Cost-Shared Mitigation Investments


  1. 1 Disaster prevention/mitigation measures are those that eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards through proactive measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs. Measures may be structural (e.g. flood dikes) or non-structural (e.g. land use zoning and building codes). Mitigation activities should incorporate the measurement and assessment of the evolving risk environment and may include the creation of comprehensive, pro-active instruments that enable the prioritization of risk reduction investments. Mitigation provides a critical foundation for emergency management in Canada.
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