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Summary of the Evaluation of the Geoscience to Keep Canada Safe Program

About the Geoscience to Keep Canada Safe Program

The Geoscience to Keep Canada Safe (GKCS) program carries out monitoring, research and planning related to natural geo-hazards (earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes, and space weather) to support public safety and resilience to natural hazard events. The GKCS program activities are delivered through the Canadian Hazards and Information Service (CHIS) and the Public Safety Geoscience (PSG) of the Lands and Minerals Sector (LMS) at NRCan.

The program is supported by ongoing funding (A-base), plus temporary project-based funding (C-based). Total program actual expenditures between 2014-15 to 2019-20 were approximately $93 million.


Text Version

Infographic showing the program theory of Geoscience to Keep Canada Safe (GKCS), consisting of three boxes and two arrows.

The first box explains that “through the GKCS, NRCan’s Land and Minerals Sector carries out monitoring, research, and planning related to hazards”. An arrow from the first box points towards the second box.

The second box explains that “PSG and CHIS establish a strong knowledge base, and develop tools to support decision-making and the development of mitigation strategies and action plans”. An arrow from the second box points towards the third box.

The third box explains “this helps governments, the private sector, and professional organizations to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters.”

What the Evaluation found


The Program remains highly relevant to government objectives around public safety and emergency management. It is widely respected for its role as the primary provider of information on geo-hazards to the Government of Canada. The subject matter expertise found within the Program was a valuable asset for Canada in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and emergency management (EM) efforts. However, Canada’s implementation of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015 and Canada’s Emergency Management Strategy (2017) introduced a whole of society approach to disaster risk reduction. This approach increased the demand for related geo-science and hazard risk assessment beyond those with whom the Program had long-standing relationships, which is expected to continue – at least in the mid-term – with implications for the GKCS. As expectations rise, the Program should look to its capacity to meet the increased demand as its role evolves.

Progress on Outcomes

Overall, the Program contributes to the understanding of geo-hazards to a great extent. Stakeholders and decision-makers use the Program information in their decisions. Stakeholders acknowledge the strength of the contribution not only for themselves, but also on increased understanding among those responsible for making decisions. The Program experienced challenges in progressing on outcomes that involved a higher need for engaging with stakeholders whose needs for information were increasing, but who were outside the technical and research groups the program was used to dealing with.

The GKCS Program was implicated in collaborative efforts due to the need for multidisciplinary tables to address gaps in knowledge transfer and the critical fact that expertise in Canada largely resided within NRCan. While there was significant collaboration, plans to reduce information gaps often lacked further development and resources to be implemented. However, some of this activity fell outside of the responsibility and mandate of NRCan.

Stakeholders expressed cautious optimism that Canada was ultimately more resilient but acknowledged that work was needed to develop more robust indicators for measuring resilience.

Design and Delivery

The Program was well-designed to support outcomes related to research and monitoring. Projects were delivered on time and on budget and activities reflected existing stakeholder needs. However, the Program was less well-designed to support the whole of society approach to disaster risk reduction arising from factors largely inherent to structures outside the LMS. Evidence suggests that information was not easily shared among other NRCan programming with similar goals in public safety and resilience. NRCan could improve coordination to avoid confusion and ensure common approaches to reduce burden at the local level, where there is little capacity to conduct hazard identification. A more permanent table for sharing information on disaster risk reduction and emergency management could be established within NRCan to address strategic cross-cutting issues related to DRR and EM programming.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

The Program made strides in integrating EDI considerations into its activities, but there is more to do. Suggested improvements mostly relate to consideration of Indigenous populations, including engaging with communities to share research findings and knowledge affecting local communities, and enhancing opportunities for employment in geo-hazards research among Indigenous people.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

The evaluation identified several practices within the Program that facilitated effective operations (e.g., mid-year and year-end reports for research projects that assisted in tracking project performance, CHIS dashboard reporting). Canada’s membership in the Global Earthquake Model Foundation involved multiple partners, which stretched the resources of multiple stakeholders and established grounds for closer collaboration within the country.

The evaluation identified several lessons learned. Firstly, collaboration and relationship-building take time and requires dedicated capacity. Taking this into account during the planning phase of activities improved uptake of information. Additionally, poorly defined roles in overlapping areas of NRCan limits intra-departmental interaction and creates confusion among stakeholders. This reduces opportunities for collaboration, creates confusion regarding reporting responsibilities where objectives overlap, and can lead to an inefficient allocation of NRCan resources.

About the Evaluation

The main objective of the evaluation was to assess the program contribution to i) achieving intermediate and longer-term outcomes and ii) meeting stakeholder needs, particularly in light of a changing operating environment. The evaluation scope included science, research, and monitoring activities carried out by the PSG and CHIS in relation to geo-hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, tsunamis, and geomagnetic storms). The evaluation covered the period from 2014-15 to 2019-20. This evaluation is consistent with the requirements of the Treasury Board Policy on Results (2016). Details on specific evaluation questions, methods and limitations are found in the full report.

Recommendations, and Management Response and Action Plan (MRAP)

The evaluation found that the GKCS program was well managed and achieved its immediate outcomes, and was able to fulfill very well its primary role as the supplier of scientific and technical information on geohazards to the Government of Canada. However, the implementation of the Sendai Framework and the Emergency Management Strategy for Canada has impacted the context of the program and has implications for achieving its intermediate outcomes. The following recommendations thus reflect the evaluation’s conclusion that the Program should examine its role in view of the changes in the operating environment.


Management Response and Action Plan

1. Recognizing that Public Safety Canada leads the whole-of-society approach for emergency management and disaster risk reduction, the ADM, LMS should continue to work with federal partners to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the GKCS Program in relation to federal involvement in disaster risk reduction, particularly in respect of knowledge translation in a whole of society approach to DRR and EM. The goal would be to clarify roles and expectations in relation to DRR so that the Program can align capacity and manage demands for the DRR expertise housed within the Program.


ADM-LMS commits, via DG-HAOB and DG-GSC, to raise the issue of LMS’s role and expectations in relation to disaster risk reduction with Public Safety Canada (PS).  Further, LMS commits to participating in a number of interdepartmental DG tables to assist PS to advance whole-of-government disaster risk reduction where there is overlap with LMS’ mandate.

DG HAOB will meet regularly with DG GSC and together they will ensure that their accountable directors (GSC/Pacific and HAOB/CHIS) raise relevant components of the GKCS Program at these tables. In particular, LMS’ will ensure its science and policy advice is included in a) the biennial Cabinet Report and b) the biennial Public Report on the National Risk Profile.

Position responsible: DG, HAOB and DG, GSC

Due date:  Public Report on National Risk Profile, March 31,2023

2. The ADM, LMS should initiate a forward-looking discussion on disaster risk reduction and risk assessment activities across NRCan sectors in order to improve internal coordination of overlapping activities. At minimum, the ADM-LMS should support the GKCS Program to explore the linkages between climate change and hazards research in an effort to a) review LMS’s efforts in knowledge translation to decision-makers under the Emergency Management Strategy funding (Budget 2019) and b) for GSC’s Public Safety Geoscience program, in particular, to advance research linkages between climate change and hazards research for hazards expected to be altered by a changing climate.



ADM-LMS will continue to assess potential for future work within LMS between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, particularly in light of the National Adaptation Strategy in expected in late 2022.

a) To clarify LMS approaches in knowledge translation, ADM-LMS will bring LMS’s work on disaster risk reduction, hazard and risk assessment activities to the ADM Policy Committee. This will include presentation of LMS’ efforts to design results for practitioners, which makes the program’s knowledge and science advice on disaster risk reduction accessible to decision-makers.

b) Within GKCS, in particular the GSC’s Public Safety Geoscience Program, further research work centred on the potential for a changed climate to accelerate geohazard events such as landslides (including those that contribute to flooding), slope stability (marine and terrestrial) and coastal hazards will be examined and inform program delivery further the program’s intermediate outcomes.

Position responsible:  a) DG HAOB and DG GSC; b) Director GSC Pacific

Due date:

a) Presentation on LMS disaster risk reduction to ADM Policy Committee by January 31, 2023. 

b) PSG mid-cycle program adjustments by May 1, 2023.

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