Who We Are and What We Do

The Canadian Coast Guard is a nationally recognized and world-leading symbol of service and safety. Our iconic red and white ships, hovercrafts and helicopters represent the federal government’s presence along 243,000 kilometers of coastline, the longest of any country in the world.

The Canadian Coast Guard in entrusted to deliver valuable programs and services to Canadians. As a Special Operating Agency within Fisheries and Oceans Canada, we ensure the safety of all mariners on our waters, protect our marine environment and support our economy growth through the safe and efficient movement of maritime trade in and out of Canada’s waters.

Through the recently announced Oceans Protection Plan, the Coast Guard Guard is emerging as a leader in co-managing Canada’s oceans by working with Indigenous groups, provinces, territories and other public and private stakeholders. The Oceans Protection Plan has four main priority areas:

  • creating a world-leading marine safety system that improves responsible shipping and protects Canada’s waters, including new preventive and response measures;
  • restoring and protecting the marine ecosystems and habitats, using new tools and research, as well as taking measures to address abandoned boats and wrecks;
  • strengthening partnerships and launching co-management practices with Indigenous communities, including building local emergency response capacity; and,
  • investing in oil spill cleanup research and methods to ensure that decisions taken in emergencies are evidence based.

The Canadian Coast Guard is one of the few federal agencies that provide direct, front-line services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our programs and services have an impact on the daily lives of every Canadian by protecting and preserving our livelihood as a maritime nation.

Examples of what we do

  • We are mission-ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week and operate in almost all weather conditions. When extreme weather hits and other vessels are being called into port, Coast Guard vessels are often asked to head out to sea to save lives, to provide assistance to vessels in distress, to provide safe passage for vessels transiting ice-covered waterways, and to free vessels which have become trapped in ice;
  • We are a visible symbol of federal presence and provide the capacity to assert Canadian sovereignty in our territorial waters, especially in the Arctic;
  • We support on-water safety and security by responding to mariners in distress, marine disasters, and emergencies with one of the most effective maritime search and rescue systems in the world, where we are supported by the air assets and personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces along with the maritime assets and volunteers of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary;
  • We contribute to Canada’s overall economic prosperity by providing essential support for the safe and rapid movement of Canada’s international maritime trade (valued at approximately $205 billion annually1, or roughly 21.7% of Canada’s total international trade2) as well as for the movement of domestic goods. For instance, we maintain and service fixed and floating aids to navigation that mark safe passages through our waterways. We also provide essential icebreaking services that enable ships to move safely and efficiently through ice-covered waters in Eastern Canada and the Great Lakes throughout the winter, and in the Arctic during the Northern navigable season. Icebreaking services keep most Canadian ports open for business year-round, reduce flooding along the St. Lawrence and St. Clair rivers, and support ferry operators, fishers, and coastal communities;
  • We are the lead federal agency responsible for ensuring effective response to all ship-sourced or mystery-sourced marine pollution incidents within Canada’s internal waters, territorial seas, and Exclusive Economic Zones, including the Arctic;
  • We support science activities by providing research platforms for scientists from DFO and other federal government departments (such as Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada). Our personnel and vessels facilitate important scientific activities and research such as science surveys essential for determining biomass and stock assessments leading to fisheries allocations; charting to enable safe navigation; freshwater research in the Great Lakes; seabed mapping to help establish Canada’s claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; and oceans science to assess changing ocean conditions and the impacts of climate change;
  • We support DFO’s mandate to safeguard Canada’s aquatic ecosystems by providing vessels dedicated to the enforcement of regulations governing marine fisheries, aquatic species, and habitats;
  • We support maritime security activities on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence river through a joint program with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Marine Security Enforcement Teams), as well as maritime security activities of the Department of National Defence, the Canada Border Services Agency, and Public Safety Canada; and
  • We also support the non-military activities of other Canadian government departments including those of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), Health Canada, and Transport Canada through the provision of vessels, aircraft and other marine services.

1 Transport Canada, Transportation in Canada 2013, Statistical Addendum, TP14816, Table EC8.

2 Statistics Canada, Table 228-0059.