Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary
Volunteer Marine Search and Rescue

About Us



The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) is a nonprofit organization and a registered charity made up of volunteer resources throughout Canada. The CCGA has been in existence since 1978 and provides assistance to the Coast Guard and the National Defense with Search and Rescue and Safe Boating programs.


The tradition of vessels responding to distress situations is part of the fabric and, in many cases, the law for most maritime nations.
In Canada, the participation of volunteers in marine rescue pre-dates Confederation. A loose network of unpaid rescue agents reported incidents and organized searches for overdue vessels.

By the nineteen seventies, it became clear that a formal volunteer network was needed to provide a more effective response to marine incidents and implement a wider safety net for mariners.

The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary was formed in 1978-79 in an effort to enhance search and rescue coverage and capability, and to better coordinate volunteer efforts. The organization has been saving lives ever since.

Marine SAR

The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary is a major player in Canada´s national search and rescue (SAR) response network. Annually, the Auxiliary responds to approximately 25% of nearly 8000 marine SAR incidents. This translates into more than 200 lives saved each year.
The territory covered by the CCGA is vast. Canada´s area of responsibility stretches over 5.3 million square kilometers, bordering some of the most rugged coastline in the world.

In addition, the CCGA is also present on many of Canada´s major inland waterways. Its units are especially concentrated within those high risk areas where the requirements are greatest.

In a SAR system, it is essential that a sufficient number of rescue boats be available to provide the best coverage so that they may go immediately to the scene of an accident. Reaction has to be fast - lives depend on it.


The organizational structure of the CCGA is testament to its humanitarian ideals and its grassroots strengths.
In Canada, six Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliaries are federally incorporated as non-profit associations.

• CCGA National Inc.
• CCGA Pacific Inc.
• CCGA Central & Arctic Inc.
• CCGA Quebec Inc.
• CCGA Maritimes Inc.
• CCGA Newfoundland Inc.
Each association has a legal entity separate from that of the Government of Canada.

The Presidents of each of the five regional associations are members of the CCGA National Council, chaired by an elected National Chair.
In seaside villages, marinas and ports across Canada, auxiliarists are organized into units that handle missions in their vicinity. Each unit is led by an elected unit leader. A group of units combines to make up a zone led by a Director.


The Auxiliary is made up of close to 4,000 dedicated volunteers. The members are primarily pleasure craft operators and commercial fishermen who use their own vessels or community owned vessels for safe boating education and SAR-related activities.

All CCGA members are dedicated to saving and protecting lives in distress. In addition to their everyday jobs, auxiliarists are ready to exchange leisure, comfort and sleep for cold, wet and fatigue in a range of situations that will test their skills, strength and nerve.

When taking part in authorized SAR activities, they are compensated only for the cost of their fuel and little else, save a thank-you from the victims or their families for their tireless efforts.


Currently, the CCGA fleet includes over 1,130 vessels with a combined asset value of over 300 million dollars. Vessels are either privately owned, community owned or loaned by the Canadian Coast Guard to the Auxiliary.

All vessels must meet strict standards in order to become part of the Auxiliary fleet. Members are responsible for keeping their boats maintained. In addition, they are required to equip them with specialized search and rescue gear, which can run into the thousands of dollars.


The CCGA responds to approximately 25% of the 8,000 marine SAR incidents recorded annually in Canada.

On behalf of the Canadian Coast Guard, auxiliarists also conduct courtesy examinations of pleasure craft and small fishing vessels in order to prevent accidents and loss of life before they occur.

Finally, the CCGA also promotes its unique identity and mandate to the Canadian public through the media and at public events across the country.

Running Costs

The most important reason for a voluntary service is efficiency. Each CCGA unit attracts a number of the most able and active members of the community. Their time, expertise and local knowledge cannot be bought.

The CCGA is very cost conscious and aims to make maximum funds available for operational needs.

The terms and conditions which establish the conduct of activities of the CCGA are identified in a Contribution Agreement drawn up between the Auxiliary and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Because auxiliarists are only reimbursed for out of pocket expenses when tasked to a SAR mission, the Government of Canada receives the equivalent of $37 in services from the CCGA for every dollar actually spent. In other words, CCGA members save Canadian taxpayers millions by providing services at a fraction of the cost of maintaining the same number of Coast Guard units at the ready.

Call Out

Because of the effective organizational structure of the CCGA, the Canadian Coast Guard is able to keep up-to-date information on active auxiliarists and can match almost instantly a distress call to the nearest CCGA unit.

Most of the calls come from one of three Joint Canadian Rescue Coordination Centers known as JRCCs. These centers are responsible for the planning, co-ordination, conduct and control of SAR operations.

Their job is to direct the closest and most appropriate search and rescue resources to a distress call. These centers, staffed by SAR coordinators from the Canadian Military and the Canadian Coast Guard, are on full alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round.

National Statistics

The CCGA currently has close to 4,000 members and 1,130 enrolled vessels. In 2010, CCGA units responded to 1,700 SAR taskings and participated in 2,500 training exercises.

The Auxiliary has shown an enduring and valuable commitment to SAR. Each year, the CCGA contributes to saving 94% of those, whose lives are at risk in marine incidents in Canada.

Since the CCGA was founded in 1978, its members have been credited with participation to 50,000 missions and saving 4,000 lives. Another 5,000 people are helped each year in non-distress marine incidents and millions of dollars of property are saved.

The CCGA is committed to the Government of Canada to provide search and rescue services. It is a hugely intensive operation requiring a large number of vessels, crewmembers and equipment.


The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary has been recognized as one of the best, safest and most cost effective volunteer marine rescue organizations in the world with numerous national and international awards to its credit.

The CCGA also plays an integral role in the world wide SAR community. The CCGA has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary to promote joint efforts in search and rescue initiatives. The CCGA is also an active and contributing partner to the IMRF.

The Future

The organization has reached a point where an expansion and diversification of funding resources is required to meet current and future needs and to enable the volunteers to go to the rescue with confidence and with the best training and equipment available. More funding is required in order to expand SAR activities, to serve additional high incident areas and to do more safe boating activities.