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Friday, June 9, 2023

Canada’s First National Risk Profile Examines Earthquakes, Wildfires and Floods

In the future, the National Risk Profile will expand to consider other disaster risks, including a focus on human-induced hazards that could significantly impact Canada’s national security and economic prosperity, such as acts of terrorism or cyber attacks.

Canada has released its National Risk Profile, the first public, strategic, national-level disaster risk assessment. It provides a national picture of disaster risks facing Canada, and the existing measures and resources in our emergency management systems to address them.

The report examines disaster risks from three of the most concerning hazards facing Canadians – earthquakes, wildland fires, and floods, with a section on the cascading effects of pandemics like COVID-19 on these three hazards. It aims to help Canadaians understand the disaster risks they face in order to prepare for, manage, and recover from emergencies; assist all emergency management partners make informed decisions to reduce, prepare for, and respond to disasters; and identify strengths and weaknesses at the national level to help reduce the impacts of disasters for everyone in Canada.


While the majority of earthquakes in Canada are minor and cannot be felt, a major earthquake would be very costly. Data indicates, for example, that a severe earthquake in British Columbia—9.0-magnitude—could result in $75 billion in losses and a similarly probable event in the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa corridor could result in $61 billion in losses. Stakeholders identified hazard monitoring, early warning and the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge as gaps in the Canadian emergency management system related to addressing earthquakes. Various initiatives are underway across the federal government to reduce earthquake risk including actions on mitigation, community planning, and providing a better picture of what a future earthquake would look like.

Wildland fires

The impacts of climate change are causing longer and more intense fire seasons, with costs to the economy in the billions. Efforts are being made to improve Canadians’ awareness on how to face wildland fires in their communities, and to help build more resilient infrastructure that can stand up to the effects of wildland fire. But the report says gaps remain in public awareness of wildland fires as well as in the ability to respond to wildland fires at the national level. There is also inadequate inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in wildland fire management and response, the report notes. 6. Work is being undertaken to help identify the landscapes and communities that are at greatest fire risk, and which mitigation investments would be most effective. This includes an improved understanding of fire processes and the development of operational tools to help make informed decisions on wildland fire risk.


Flooding is Canada’s most costly and frequent hazard, causing economic, social and environmental burdens for the whole of society. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and severity of flooding in many areas of Canada, which will further exacerbate its impacts. The report identifies gaps in coordination to address flood risk across orders of government, a patchwork of flood data and information available to help mitigate flood risk, and again, low levels of awareness amongst Canadians. A significant proportion of the population is exposed to flooding, and greater information on flood risk, including forecasts and alerts, will help all levels of government mitigate the effects of flooding.

The report is based on broad public engagement and includes input from stakeholders from all sectors across Canada, including representatives of federal departments and agencies, provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous organizations and communities, as well as the academic, private, volunteer, and non-governmental sectors.

To ensure the resilience of Canadian society to disasters and the impacts of climate change, the report says emergency management and disaster risk reduction activities must be coordinated, proactive and efficient. Gaps between different jurisdictions in terms of emergency management approaches and programming hamper mitigation and response. The report adds there is also room to further integrate climate change adaptation into emergency management as well as address information sharing gaps between the health and emergency management systems.

In addition, while it is known that disasters and climate change are having significant mental health impacts for Canadians, there is a need for better data on these broad psychosocial consequences. Low levels of insurance uptake in high-risk earthquake and flood areas as well as inadequate risk reduction measures—such as retrofit programs and natural infrastructure solutions—were also identified as important gaps to address.

This report does not propose policy solutions, but instead will serve as an evolving, foundational evidence base and tool to increase national disaster risk awareness and support a whole-of-society approach to emergency management. In the future, the National Risk Profile will expand to consider other disaster risks, including a focus on human-induced hazards that could significantly impact Canada’s national security and economic prosperity, such as acts of terrorism or cyber attacks.

Read the complete National Risk Profile at Public Safety Canada

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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