Canada’s government and military have forwarded UFO reports to a civilian researcher for over two decades, VICE World News has learned.
Chris Rutkowski, one of the country’s most prominent ufologists, has been covering Canadian cases for more than 30 years, but has never fully disclosed these ties.
This is also the first time current UFO procedures have been released from the Canadian air force and NORAD, the joint Canada-U.S. defence group. They show an apparent lack of official Canadian curiosity or concern with phenomena the U.S. military openly investigates as potential national security threats.
“Their official stance is that they are not doing anything about UFOs and that I am the point man in Canada,” Rutkowski told VICE World News.
Obtained through Canada’s Access to Information Act, procedural checklist CL 213 outlines how the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canada’s NORAD headquarters deal with UFO sightings.
CL 213 says: “CIRVIS (Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings) reports should be made immediately upon a vital intelligence sighting of… objects or activities which appear to be hostile, unidentified, or engaged in possible illegal smuggling activity.” It even puts “unidentified flying objects” at the top of a list of examples such as “submarines or warships which are not Canadian or American.”
The document refers both civilian and military reports to Nav Canada, a private company that owns and operates Canada’s air traffic control structure. Previous VICE World News stories showed how Nav Canada is the first point of contact when professional pilots spot UFOs over the country, which happened as recently as July.
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“Nav Canada manages Canadian airspace, and for that reason, it is important for them to be advised,” a Canadian air force and NORAD spokesperson told VICE World News.
CL 213 specifically comes from 1 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg, the air force’s command centre and headquarters of the Canadian NORAD Region. While NORAD is not subject to freedom of information laws, as part of the Canadian Armed Forces, 1 Canadian Air Division is.
Canada’s military says it does not typically concern itself with UFO reports, unless they represent emergencies or “credible threats.” A defence spokesperson did disclose that “CIRVIS reports are shared with our NORAD colleagues in the U.S.”
And according to CL 213, “UFO sightings are to be referred to: Mr. Chris Rutkowski.”
Often billed as the country’s foremost “UFO expert,” Rutkowski is the author of 10 books on the subject and founder of the annual Canadian UFO Survey, which has documented more than 22,000 UFO sightings since 1989. While the science writer has mentioned receiving reports from the military in his survey and speaking engagements, he’s never gone into depth about the exclusive two-decade arrangement—until now.
“I tend not to talk about my UFO research publicly but I do talk about UFOs publicly,” Rutkowski told us. “It’s a subtle distinction.”
In 1986, Rutkowski wrote a defence paper for the government. Around that time, he said he made contacts at the National Research Council of Canada, a federal agency that officially collected UFO reports from 1968 to 1995. When budget cuts, retirements, and growing disinterest ended the program, Rutkowski offered his services. In hindsight, he said he was “surprised” years later when he got a call from the military.
“I don’t recall the name of the person who initially phoned me more than 20 years ago,” he said. “All that was discussed on the brief phone call was a verification that I was the person that had wanted to receive UFO reports.”
A spokesperson from Canada’s Department of National Defence described it as a “handshake agreement” with “a known responsible and published researcher on UFOs.” The spokesperson confirmed UFO reports have “been passed to (Rutkowski), on occasion, in various forms since the late 1990s.”
“I have no illusions that I receive all official UFO reports,” Rutkowski said. “I receive relatively low-classified reports with no security concerns.”
Rutkowski holds science and education degrees from the University of Manitoba, which has long employed him in communications roles, and where he is donating his UFO files. His latest book, Canada’s UFOs: Declassified, is scheduled to be released this fall.
“I didn’t start out to be ‘Canada’s UFO expert,’” Rutkowski said. “I just plugged away, trying to understand what was really going on.”
‘We do not send it to NORAD like we used to’
VICE World News first learned of CL 213 in a declassified daily log file from the Canadian air force and NORAD command centre in Winnipeg. It describes them being notified of a cargo flight that reported an “object… going between Mach 4 & 5 making constant circles” above Canada’s Northwest Territories in April 2018.
That information came from the Canadian Air Defence Sector (CADS) in North Bay, Ontario, which is alerted by Nav Canada air traffic controllers when pilots report UFOs. CADS then informs the air force and NORAD in Winnipeg, and it also faxes Transport Canada, the government’s transportation department.
In the 2018 log, an air force officer in Winnipeg “checked if CADS needed the contact information contained in CL 213 and they did not.”
Rutkowski showed VICE World News a report and emails he apparently received from Transport Canada on the morning of the 2018 “Mach 4” incident. The “vital intelligence” CIRVIS form appeared almost identical to one CADS’ 21 Squadron faxed Transport Canada in 2019 after an unusual aviation sighting.
Transport Canada said it began sending Rutkowski “brief emails and some reports” in December 1999, but recently stopped after it “determined that it was not an operational necessity.”
“The decision to provide Mr. Rutkowski with these reports was an informal process and was done as a courtesy to encourage Mr. Rutkowski in his research for his fiction novels,” a spokesperson said.
VICE World News also learned Rutkowski has received UFO reports directly from at least five Canadian military bases.
In the case of CFB Comox in British Columbia, procedures to send Rutkowski reports were in place for at least a decade, but were cancelled this year after the base “started to receive weekly… requests on the topic of UFOs,” according to the Canadian military’s access to information office.
The old procedural document said, “We do not send it to NORAD like we used to. There is no form to fill in; just take the info and email it.”
‘Information should be available to everyone’
VICE World News was told to file access to information requests to glimpse what Rutkowski’s received from Canada’s government and military, and, so far, has only been able to independently verify six reports from CFB Comox. Two appear to have been left out of Rutkowski’s annual UFO survey, as was the 2018 “Mach 4” incident.
“I don’t have a problem with Chris getting this information,” freedom of information researcher Sean Holman told VICE World News. “What I do have a problem with is Canadians not getting this information.”
Holman, who teaches journalism at Alberta’s Mount Royal University, said “these kinds of informal relationships used to exist fairly regularly” before Canada’s Access to Information Act came into effect in 1983. He suggested Canada create a “regularized system” to release UFO data, perhaps even formalizing Rutkowski’s gatekeeper role.
Such an approach would still be a far cry from the U.S., where the military has studied UFOs almost continuously since 2007, and where intelligence officials released a stunning report in June that stated these phenomena “clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security.”
Canada doesn’t seem to be as alarmed.
“If the government feels comfortable releasing this information to a private citizen, then that means that information should logically be available to everyone,” Holman said. “There’s a real opportunity here for Chris.”
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