The role of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) during domestic disaster response has increased significantly over the last century due to the military's response capacity and the increased frequency and impact of natural hazards. However, there has been no systematic academic assessment of how effectively CAF is integrated into the civilian emergency management system, particularly during the response phase. Using archival analysis and interviews with senior CAF officers and civilian officials, this study fills that gap with an examination of four of Canada's worst and most recent natural disasters: Hurricane Igor (2010), the Assiniboine River flood (2011), the Alberta multi-river floods (2013), and the Saskatchewan wildfires (2015). Each event was analyzed to assess the effectiveness of CAF-civilian response across different hazards, provincial jurisdictions, and CAF Joint Task Forces.
The analysis is broken down into descriptive, evaluative, and normative concepts to assess the presence and quality of, and barriers to, interorganizational collaboration throughout each response. The presence of interorganizational collaboration was high across all events while the quality of such collaboration was moderately high with room for improvement. Barriers to interorganizational collaboration were low, although conceptual differences on the scope of the formal Request for Assistance and the value of defining 'disaster end states' did adversely affect collaboration between military and civilian organizations. Lack of resources generally did not adversely affect levels of interorganizational collaboration, except through the limited availability of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) aircraft and the limited emergency management capacity of most municipalities. Organizational traits such as conceptions of reality unique to an organization type had more influence on the level of interorganizational collaboration compared to jurisdiction or hazard type, with only wildfires having a hazard-specific effect on such collaboration.
The results of this study have implications for emergency management practitioners, as well as the academic literatures of emergency management, public administration, and civil-military relations. Three policy recommendations - the expansion of emergency management networks, the maintenance of Canada's decentralized emergency management system, and additional disaster response resources for the RCAF and municipalities - are presented in the study's conclusion to improve Canadian disaster response.