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Landslide Risk Management in Canada

Communities across Canada have experienced damaging landslides for more than two centuries, and Indigenous communities since time immemorial. While no comprehensive national estimate has yet been established, existing data suggests the cost of landslides to the Canadian economy exceeds $1 billion per year. Across Canada, damaging events continue to raise public concern about landslide risk, motivating authorities and decision makers to fulfill their mandates to reduce or prevent injury, fatalities, and damages. 

In association with Calian Group Ltd., the Centre for Security Science at Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC-CSS) and Natural Resources Canada’s Geological Survey of Canada (NRCan-GSC) asked BGC to help identify gaps and review opportunities to strengthen landslide risk management in Canada.  

The full report—Landslide Risk Reduction Research and Development—is now publicly available. 

DRDC asked BGC to review Canada’s current state of landslide management practice with input from parties with landslide and disaster risk management expertise. DRDC then asked BGC, based on the experience of BGC and contributors, to recommend actions to resolve gaps and advance landslide loss reduction goals with an emphasis on delivery models for implementation. 

Last May, BGC led a workshop convening people with diverse backgrounds related to landslide and disaster risk management across Canada to seek their input about the current state of Canadian landslide risk management and opportunities for the federal government to support landslide risk reduction. Workshop contributors provided 840 written responses on a wide range of landslide risk issues. 

We guided participants to consider inputs, processes, people, or any other factors participants felt should be considered to improve landslide loss reduction in Canada. Participants were challenged to contribute ideas that can transform how landslide risk management is implemented to safeguard Canadians in a changing climate. 

Based on workshop findings and the experience of the authors, BGC identified 19 gaps paired with specific opportunities (objectives) to advance landslide risk reduction objectives in the following areas: governance, risk identification and analyses, risk evaluation and control, and implementation. Using the Landslide Management Risk Process as outlined in draft Canadian Landslide Guidelines, BGC provided key results against which the Government of Canada can measure progress and provides tactical guidance around actions.  

At BGC, we have long found that the most effective way to advance strategic goals is through projects. We suggested that NRCan/GSC identify strategic geographies where pilot initiatives can be advanced, with an initial focus on areas with existing landslide datasets, active industry risk management programs, and critical public infrastructure.  

We provided four examples of pilot initiatives to advance aspects of our recommendations. Three initiatives are intended to catalyze a shift in the delivery model for landslide risk management from static assessment towards an operational, asset-management-oriented approach. A fourth initiative is more ambitious and involves an exercise originally championed by BGC’s Matthias Jakob (deceased) to prepare for the anticipated re-occurrence of an atmospheric river event in southwest British Columbia of similar or larger magnitude to the event in November 2021.    

BGC continues to engage with NRCAN to advance these initiatives, drawing upon the knowledge and experience of our internal sector and discipline experts.  

Thank you to the workshop contributors for helping shape and strengthen BGC’s review and recommendations. Malaika Ulmi and our friend and former colleague Phil LeSueur of the GSC helped facilitate workshop breakout sessions, as did Giovanni Fusina and Trent Abbott of DRDC. Calian Ltd. acted as BGC’s direct client and project coordinator. 

If you’d like to learn more about this project or other work from our Communities team, reach out to Kris Holm. 

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