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Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d’être

NRCan works to improve the quality of life of Canadians by ensuring that our natural resources are developed sustainably, providing a source of jobs, prosperity and opportunity, while preserving our environment and respecting our communities and Indigenous peoples.

Mandate and role

The Minister of Natural Resources has responsibilities defined by more than 30 acts of Parliamentiv. The Minister’s core powers, duties and functions are set forth in the Department of Natural Resources Act,v the Resources and Technical Surveys Act,vi the Forestry Actvii and the Energy Efficiency Act.viii The Department also works in areas of shared responsibility with provinces, including the environment, public safety, economic development, science and technology, and consultations with Indigenous peoples. The Department fulfils its responsibilities through the development and implementation of policy, regulation, statutory fiscal transfers, grants and contributions, and provides leadership and support for science and technology, partnerships and communications.


NRCan’ science aims at solving the important challenges of today and tomorrow, such as the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy, the competitiveness of the natural resources sectors, adaptation to climate change, and the safety and security of Canadians.

The department devotes nearly half of its budget to science. In its 19 research centres located across the country, its scientists collaborate with other federal, provincial, territorial and local governments, and with academic, Indigenous and industry groups, to: 

  • Provide expert advice to support standards development such as building codes, and decisions on major resources projects such as pipelines and marine terminals;
  • Improve understanding of forest fires, earthquakes, climate change and its impacts, and the cumulative effects of resources development;
  • Improve Canada’s monitoring and reporting on its landmass and waters with state-of-the-art satellites and sensors to provide evidence required in decision-making;
  • Support Canada’s monitoring systems that provide warnings of hazards that threaten communities and critical infrastructure such as those related to electricity distribution and telecommunications; and
  • Generate new ideas through RD&D in areas such as clean technology, new materials, and energy-efficient, geospatial and green mining technologies.

Without scientific projects initiated 10 or 20 years ago, many of today’s innovations would not exist.  Similarly, research projects currently underway will help solve the critical challenges of tomorrow.



The industry sectors that NRCan supports are all experiencing unprecedented changes in increasingly dynamic operating environments.

With the Government’s increased focus on experimentation with new approaches to existing problems, NRCan is moving towards a culture of structured experimentation – systematically identifying the highest risk areas, designing and testing new approaches, gathering and analysing data, sharing results and making iterative and continuous improvements based on the evidence at hand.

Supporting this end-to-end approach, the Department is developing tools for managers to begin using in 2017-18. These will include tools to identify the purpose, intended incremental results and improvements, and to ensure the performance measurement approach is clear from the outset; as well as tools to help managers monitor and measure the change observed as a result of the innovation and to report on results and lessons learned.

NRCan has offices and laboratories across the country. About one third of its employees are located in the National Capital Region, with the remainder distributed from Atlantic Canada, through Quebec and Ontario, to the Western and Pacific Regions and Northern Canada.

The Minister of Natural Resources is responsible for delivering on mandate letter commitments and aspects of key government priorities in the following areas

  • Collaboration with provinces and territories to advance the Canadian Energy Strategy;
  • Collaboration with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), AAFC, DFO, and Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to advance the strategy to advance clean technology in Canada’s natural resource sectors;
  • Implementation of interim measures for major resource projects;
  • Modernization of the NEB;
  • Implementation of the North American Clean Energy and Environment agreement in collaboration with ECCC;
  • Renewal of relationships with Indigenous peoples; and
  • Implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth, in collaboration with ECCC.

Details on delivery of these priorities are provided in this Departmental Plan.

For more general information about the Department, see the “Supplementary information” section of this report. For more information on the Department’s organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Minister’s mandate letter on the Prime Minister of Canada’s websiteix.




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