Here Are 20 Years of UFO Sightings We Got From the Canadian Government

VICE World News obtained nearly 300 pages of documents through freedom of information requests that include strange sightings from pilots, soldiers, and police officers.
The documents, totalling 290 pages, contain dozens of strange sightings from commercial pilots, soldiers, and cops. Stock photo by Getty Images

The Canadian government has released 20 years of UFO reports. 

The 500-plus reports spanning nearly 300 pages contain dozens of strange sightings from commercial pilots, soldiers, and police officers. (Here are some of the highlights.) Obtained by VICE World News through Canadian freedom of information laws, the reports were made to federal transportation authorities as recently as last year, when a Canadian military flight spotted a “bright green flying object” that “flew into a cloud then disappeared” over eastern Canada.


Other unusual observations include Newfoundland police “tracking two brightly coloured flying objects” in August 2001 and a December 2018 passenger flight from Alaska to Seattle that reported “pulsating lights” descending from 60,000 feet.

“I would be inclined categorically to believe anybody that reported something,” former Canadian fighter pilot John “Jock” Williams told VICE World News. “There’s no upside to making a fake report.”

Williams is an aviation consultant who has also worked as a federal flight safety officer. 

“There is a definite reluctance to report stuff,” he said. “I’m amazed at the amount of the material they sent you, and some of it actually is pretty good.”

All 290 pages of reports have been included at the bottom of this story as a downloadable PDF.

There are loads of civilian sightings too, such as a large glowing “object seen hovering quite quickly back and forth just above the tree line” near Peterborough, Ontario, in January 2011. 

One uncommonly long report even details a sighting that was confirmed by military radar. On the night of Dec. 23, 2018, a fisherman in the Bay of Fundy and a woman at home in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, both contacted a search and rescue centre to report a light that “was yellow, steady, and hovering” high above the Atlantic Ocean. When Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) personnel reviewed radar data from NORAD, the joint Canada-U.S. air defence alliance, they “observed three primary radar hits” that correlated almost exactly to the time and location of the sighting. 


“This is an area that has good low level radar coverage, so there is no explanation of why there were only three points all at exactly 12,800 ft with no points leading up to or continuing on at any other altitudes,” a Canadian Air Defence Sector report states. 

The best guess was “independent radar hits on weather and not an actual airborne object,” even though the “no threat” report notes it was a partly cloudy night with good visibility. 

Less than an hour’s drive from Yarmouth, the nearby fishing village of Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia, was the site of a famous 1967 mass sighting of a large luminous object that disappeared into the ocean.

The reports also include previously unpublished documents on Canadian UFO cases covered in earlier VICE World News stories, like Alberta air traffic controllers who spotted a “solid bright light” that “appeared too fast to be any commercial aircraft” in December 2009, a Manitoba police officer who filmed “an unidentified bright yellow and orange light” with their cruiser’s dashcam in April 2011, and an April 2018 cargo flight from New York to Alaska that “reported an object flying sporadically… and moving at Mach 4” over northern Canada. 


Have an unusual observation or document to share? Reach out to Daniel Otis via Twitter at @dsotis or email otisstories (at) gmail (dot) com.

VICE World News acquired the documents last month via two separate access to information requests that were filed in April and September with Transport Canada, the government department that oversees aviation. Most were forwarded to Transport Canada by the private company Nav Canada, which owns and operates the country’s civilian air traffic control infrastructure. The releases also feature nearly two dozen reports sent by the Canadian military. Many—but not all—were later edited and published on Transport Canada’s online aviation incident database

Together, the two releases are meant to capture all “CIRVIS” reports held by Transport Canada that were created over the past two decades. Short for “Communication Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings,” an April 2021 VICE World News story showed how versions of this Cold War-era threat reporting procedure are still being used by Canadian air traffic controllers and the RCAF to document credible UFO cases.


In a statement to VICE World News, Transport Canada described CIRVIS reports as “a U.S. government instrument” that “usually fall outside the scope of Transport Canada’s mandate.”

“CIRVIS reports are infrequently reported to Transport Canada as the reports received are a result of natural phenomena such as fireballs, weather balloons, and meteors,” a spokesperson said.

Canada’s military isn’t as dismissive, but also generally considers UFOs to be outside their purview.

“The Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Air Force do not typically investigate sightings of unknown or unexplained phenomena outside the context of investigating credible threats, potential threats, or potential distress in the case of search and rescue,” a spokesperson told VICE World News. 

In the U.S., government-funded UFO research programs have existed almost continuously since 2007. The public got a glimpse of those efforts last June, when intelligence officials released a fascinating report on recent U.S. military sightings, which have included objects that appeared to “maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion.” Signed by President Joe Biden in late December, the 2022 U.S. defence spending bill even contains a provision to create a new UFO office.


For more than two decades, the closest thing Canada had to an official UFO office was civilian researcher Chris Rutkowski. 

Rutkowski received many of the reports contained in the two releases directly from transportation or military officials, often soon after the sightings. A handful of Canadian military UFO report forms even include instructions to fax copies to Rutkowski. The Winnipeg-based ufologist’s quiet relationship with Canadian authorities appears to have ended without warning in mid-2021.

“I have noticed an abrupt halt to my receiving of UFO reports through the Department of National Defence and Transport Canada,” Rutkowski told VICE World News. “UFOs may now be getting more attention from the government, which is ostensibly a good thing, but as a consequence the subject will be much less open to public scrutiny.”

While Rutkowski featured data from many of the reports in his annual Canadian UFO Survey, which has documented more than 22,000 UFO sightings since 1989, the reports themselves—especially those from the last decade—have largely not been made public. 

“I needed to respect the confidential nature of such reports while at the same time requiring information for research on the topic,” Rutkowski said. “I do not believe there has been a release like this previously.”


There is some overlap between the two releases, which total 290 pages. The reports also include what are clearly drone, meteor, balloon, and satellite sightings—like a December 2019 Air Canada Express flight that reported “40 lights in the sky…travelling in groups of 15,” which was very likely a then relatively uncommon constellation of SpaceX Starlink internet satellites. Others almost seem psychedelic, like a Saint Walburg, Saskatchewan, resident who notified an air force base in October 2020 of “thousands of diamond-shaped objects passing overhead at a very high rate of speed.”

But the releases also contain dozens of reports that underscore the simple fact that credible witnesses like pilots, soldiers, and cops see things in the sky that they can’t identify. In other words, the evidence says UFOs exist. The real question is: what are they?

“I have no theory, to tell you the truth,” said Williams, the former RCAF pilot and Transport Canada safety officer. “But I have no reason to doubt anybody that’s putting in a report of that sort.”

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