Canada’s military is being notified when pilots spot UFOs in Canadian airspace, VICE World News has found.
According to an aviation incident report viewed by VICE World News, the crew of a medical transport flight over northern Manitoba “reported that an inexplicable bright light followed them… at the same altitude and speed” well before sunrise on Jan. 6, 2019.
That morning, civilian air traffic controllers alerted the 21 Aerospace Control and Warning Squadron, a nearly 200-strong Air Force unit at the CFB North Bay military base in northeastern Ontario. The unit’s mission is to protect Canada under NORAD, the joint Canada-U.S. air defence pact. It then faxed an unclassified intelligence report to Ottawa.
The intelligence report, obtained by an access to information request, is official proof the Canadian military is documenting unidentified aerial phenomena—a significant finding that puts Canada in line with other countries. The existence of a U.S. UFO-tracking program was revealed in 2017 by the New York Times.
“The document confirms to me that the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and seemingly NORAD have a process for reporting sightings of both unidentified and identified flying objects,” professor Timothy Sayle told VICE World News. Sayle is the director of the University of Toronto’s International Relations Program and a historian whose research focuses on intelligence, security, and declassified records.
“It concerns me that there is so much secrecy around this,” he said.
Emblazoned with a pair of prickly thistles and the motto “Intruder Beware,” 21 Squadron’s badge appears on the fax’s cover page with the words “No threat CIRVIS Report.” CIRVIS stands for Communication Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings. According to a Canadian aviation incident reporting manual, vital intelligence sightings include “airborne and ground objects or activities that appear to be hostile, suspicious, unidentified, or engaged in possible illegal smuggling activity,” like “suspicious ground parties in Polar regions” and “unidentified flying objects.”
The report itself, which cites the Winnipeg Air Control Centre (ACC) as its source, describes a “light moving parallel” to the twin-turboprop plane in a “partly cloudy” night sky for three minutes as it travelled at more than 425 km/h and at an altitude of 7,500 feet.
Coordinates listed in the report show the incident occurred over rugged forests in a region aptly called Mystery Lake as the flight approached the small city of Thompson, Manitoba.
The report does not describe the colour, size, or shape of the light, nor does it say how it arrived or disappeared. In a section for “preliminary analysis,” its author writes, “ACC assumes report is of another A/C,” or aircraft. It does not say if the incident was analyzed further.
An RCAF spokesperson said Transport Canada is the primary investigative authority for CIRVIS reports. “The RCAF and NORAD take all credible threats seriously,” they told VICE World News in a statement. “Neither the Royal Canadian Air Force, nor the Canadian NORAD Region track CIRVIS reports, as they are referred to NAV Canada.”
NAV Canada is the private company that owns and operates Canada’s civilian air navigation infrastructure, such as radar installations and air traffic control centres like the Winnipeg ACC. The company is also the source of Canada’s CIRVIS reporting procedures.
In an email to VICE World News, a NAV Canada spokesperson confirmed in certain cases, it provides data on “instances of unauthorized or unknown aircraft in NAV Canada managed airspace” to the military, NORAD, and Transport Canada.
According to a Transport Canada spokesperson, 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.”
“Reports of unidentified objects can rarely be followed up on as they are as the title implies, unidentified,” they added.
That, Sayle argued, is precisely why they should be investigated.
“With today’s defence capabilities, any unidentified object in our airspace should be treated as a matter of concern,” Sayle said. “They should be tracking identified and unidentified objects in Canadian airspace and determining what they are and if they pose a threat.”
Have an unusual observation or document to share? Reach out to Daniel Otis via Twitter at @dsotis or email otisstories [at] gmail [dot] com.
In the U.S., high-ranking officials and politicians have openly admitted to studying UFOs, including Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s current head, Democratic Senator Marc Warner of Virginia.
In December, the U.S. even passed a bill that requires intelligence and defence officials to create a report on “Advanced Aerial Threats” by June 1.
“While not common—I judge that there are maybe a handful (of CIRVIS reports) filed each year—they are indications that pilots do observe and report UFOs in North American airspace,” Winnipeg-based UFO researcher Chris Rutkowski told VICE World News.
Canada’s leading expert on the topic, Rutkowski has collected information on more than 22,000 UFO sightings over the past three decades and has included data from CIRVIS reports in his longstanding annual Canadian UFO Survey.
“The fact that NORAD and the Canadian Forces pass these reports to Transport Canada as unclassified documents suggests to me that the Department of National Defence is indeed not interested in these cases,” Rutkowski said. “In fact, it implies that they do not regard them as security or defence issues.”
As recently as last August, a spokesperson from Canada’s Department of National Defence told the Globe and Mail it “wouldn't really comment on speculative matters” like UFO reports. Winnipeg-based Vanguard Air Care, which operated the Jan. 6, 2019 flight, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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Correction, Apr. 13, 2021: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the 21 Aerospace Control and Warning Squadron at CFB North Bay boasts CF-18 fighter jets.