Timeline for UFOs: The search for the unknown

The Department of Transport, Department of National Defence, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the National Research Council all dealt with reports, sightings and investigations of UFOs across Canada. Each department or agency had different interests and goals. Browse through the timeline to learn when each one became involved in investigating UFOs.

  • 1947

    Canadians were still accustomed to looking towards the sky, keeping a watch for enemy aircraft. Although the war was over, people were conscious of the possibility of an attack due to the new threat of a cold war. As a result, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Department of National Defence received reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Although sightings in Canada had occurred before, it was at this time that the Department of National Defence and other government agencies began to collect information on UFOs.

    Records of the Department of National Defence (RG 24, volume 17984, file S-940-5, parts 1 and 2; on reel T-3291)

    Memo dated 1954-12-14

  • 1950 Project Magnet

    Project Magnet began operations in 1950, with the purpose of studying, among other occurrences, magnetic phenomena. The engineer in charge of the project was senior radio engineer Wilbert Smith from the Department of Transport. The goals of Project Magnet were fuelled by the concepts of geomagnetism, and the belief that it might be possible to use and manipulate the Earth's magnetic field as a propulsion method for vehicles. Smith believed that this technology already existed in the mysterious UFOs that had been sighted so frequently in Canada. He believed that "the correlation between our basic theory and the available information on saucers checks too closely to be mere coincidence."

  • 1952 Project Second Story

    In connection with the establishment of Project Magnet by Wilbert Smith at the Department of Transport, a committee was formed by members of other government agencies that was dedicated solely to dealing with "flying saucer" reports. This committee was sponsored by the Defence Research Board and called "Project Second Story." Its main purpose was to collect, catalogue and correlate data from UFO sighting reports.

    Records of the Department of National Defence (RG 24, accession 83-84/167, box 7523, file DRBS 3800-10-1, part 1)

    Meeting minutes of April 22, 1952 (PDF 1.64 MB)

    Meeting minutes of April 24, 1952 (PDF 944 KB)

    This committee developed a questionnaire and an interrogator's instructional guide. Of significance is that the reporting method used a system intended to minimize the "personal equation". In other words, the committee created a weighting factor to measure the probability of truth in each report.

    Questionnaire form (PDF 1.61 MB)

    Completed questionnaires can be found by searching the database under RG 97 volume 114 file 5010-4.

  • 1954

    The government stopped funding Project Magnet. Work continued, however, by those dedicated to the project.

  • 1959

    The RCMP was typically the front line for reports of unidentified flying objects. The records of the RCMP at Library and Archives Canada contain reports beginning in 1959. Each record contains the sighting, the location in the sky, witness statements, name and occupation of witnesses, and a credibility assessment. Some of this information is protected by the Privacy Act. A few investigations include sketches and drawings based on witness descriptions. Reports were sent to the National Research Council (NRC) for inclusion into their non-meteoric file. Researchers at NRC frequently determined that sightings were the result of natural phenomena such as fireballs, weather balloons and meteors. Other occurrences defy explanation.

  • 1959 to 1960

    An agreement was finalized between the United States and Canada to institute a joint reporting system of UFOs. The Cirvis/Merint reporting system was created "to extend the early warning coverage for the defence of North America . . . and to extend the reporting of vital intelligence during peacetime." Posters were created to explain that airborne and water-borne objects that appeared hostile, unidentified or that seemed to be acting suspicious, were to be reported immediately. A drawing of a saucer-like object appeared with drawings of missiles and submarines, as examples of hostile objects.

    Records of the Department of Transport RG 12, accession 1980-81/303 700-20 part 2

    Letter of agreement, dated 1957-12-13

    Poster, Cirvis/Merint reporting procedure

    Instructions for reporting Cirvis/Merint (PDF 1.37 MB)

    Completed Cirvis/Merint reports can be found in the records of the Department of National Defence (RG 24) and the National Research Council (RG 77).

  • 1960s

    The Department of National Defence classified reports into one of two categories:

    Category One: Information that would suggest the type of phenomena associated with fireballs and meteorites

    Category Two: Information that does not conform to the physical patterns usually associated with fireballs or meteorite activity.

    Reports in Category One were sent to the National Research Council. Reports in Category Two were kept at the Department of National Defence to be investigated.

    Records of the Department of National Defence, RG 24, accession 83-84/167, box 7523, file DRBS 3800-10-1, part 1

    Letter dated 1967-09 (PDF 781 KB)

  • 1961

    The Department of National Defence (DND) was receiving many reports of UFO sightings. As well, DND was being asked by various Canadian individuals and organizations about its role in the investigation of UFOs. A memo dated October 18, 1961, to the office of the Deputy Minister of National Defence, outlines the typical questions asked of the department:

    Question 1: Are unsolved UFO reports in Canada kept from the Press and general public?

    Answer: No. While reports are not necessarily offered to the Press in every case, they are never denied.

    Question 2: Does the Defence Department share American concern that UFOs pose a possible threat?

    Answer: The Canadian Government is concerned with any report which might affect national security and, undoubtedly, this would be the attitude of the United States Government also. However, to date, UFO reports which have been investigated by various departments of the Canadian Government have not revealed positive evidence of anything which might affect national welfare and which could not be attributed to possibly natural phenomena or mistaken identity.

    Question 3: What is the official RCAF stand on UFOs?

    Answer: The RCAF position is one of complete open-mindedness. Each reported incident is investigated to the extent that circumstances, such as the apparent reliability and competence of the observer of the incident, seem to warrant.

    Records of the Department of National Defence, RG 24, volume 17984, file S-940-5, parts 1 and 2; on reel T-3291

    Memo dated 1961-10-23

  • 1966

    Prime Minister Pearson said to his Cabinet that "in view of the interest being shown in Parliament and the press concerning reports of unidentified flying objects, he would ask the minister or ministers responsible to provide him with reports on what had been done over recent years in connection with such reports."

    Page 6 of cabinet document

  • 1967

    The Department of National Defence transferred its files to the National Research Council. It was generally believed that most of the reports did not pose a threat to national security, but that rather "a number of investigations of the reports suggest the possibility of UFOs exhibiting some unique scientific information or advanced technology which could possible contribute to scientific or technical research."

    Records of the Department of National Defence, RG 24, accession 83-84/167, box 7523, file DRBS 3800-10-1, part 1

    Letter dated 1967-09 (PDF 781 KB)

    Three reports were highlighted by the Department of National Defence and the files were transferred to the National Research Council as unsolved: the Falcon Lake encounter, the Duhamel crop circles and the Shag Harbour landing. The department also asked to be kept advised of matters that would threaten national security. Reports continued to be submitted to various government departments.

    Records of the Department of National Defence, RG 24, accession 83-84/167, box 7523, file DRBS 3800-10-1, part 1

    Letter dated 1967-11 (PDF 1.34 MB)

  • 1968

    The Department of National Defence received a letter from a German man. The man claimed to be an aeronautical engineer who in 1944, with other scientists, built a saucer-like flying vessel meant to be "Hitler's secret weapon." The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) investigated and interviewed the man. Incidents such as these are examples of cases that were kept by the department for further investigation.

    Records of the Department of National Defence, RG 24, volume 17988, file C-940-105, parts 1 and 2; on reel T-3291

    Translation of Letter dated 1952-09-16 (PDF 1.03 MB)

    Interrogation Report dated 1952-07-02 (PDF 1.98 MB)

  • 1970

    The RCMP continued to investigate reported sightings.

  • 1978

    The Department of Transport file called "Unidentified Flying Objects" contained information on UFOs sighted between 1976 and 1978.

    More information on the records within the Department of Transport, the Department of National Defence, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the National Research Council can be located in the database.

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