Survivalists and hobbyists in Canada say they have noticed an increase in interest among Canadians to learn more about survivalism techniques since the pandemic began. Dave MacDonald, shown in a handout photo, teaches surivivalist courses in Manitoba and says some of his class sizes have doubled and quadrupled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dave MacDonald MANDATORY CREDIT

Survivalists and hobbyists in Canada say they have noticed an increase in interest among Canadians to learn more about survivalism techniques since the pandemic began. Dave MacDonald, shown in a handout photo, teaches surivivalist courses in Manitoba and says some of his class sizes have doubled and quadrupled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dave MacDonald MANDATORY CREDIT

‘Hope for the best, prepare for the worst:’ More Canadians interested in survivalism

Some survivalists may be prepping for the end of the world, but for others it’s about being prepared

Many Canadians were not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dave MacDonald wasn’t one of them.

While some people rushed to stores to buy toilet paper and food, MacDonald was living peacefully at his remote home in southern Manitoba with his wife and two sons.

They live “off-grid” near the town of Lac du Bonnet and grow about half their own food in their backyard. MacDonald also hunts.

“I don’t even need toilet paper,” the 55-year-old says.

“I can use snow, leaves or my hands. Snow is most stimulating.”

MacDonald is a part of a growing community of survivalists or “preppers,” who ready themselves for possible catastrophes that could crumble governments and infrastructure.

Some say they have noticed an uptick in interest in the movement since the pandemic began.

MacDonald, who teaches survivalist courses, also had a long career as a search-and-rescue specialist with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“I’ve seen plane crashes. I’ve seen boats on fire. I’ve seen people fall overboard. I’ve seen helicopters crash. I’ve seen trains derail. I’ve seen factories explode. I’ve seen wars break out everywhere,” he says.

“People get themselves into trouble because they figure, ‘Oh, that’s never gonna happen to me.’ And then when it does happen, because it does happen, they’re not prepared.’”

COVID-19 is one of those events that people weren’t prepared for, says MacDonald, who believes that’s why many have enrolled in his International Canadian School of Survival.

He teaches firearm training and basic survival skills such as food rationing, land navigation and building fires. The number of students in his courses have doubled — and in his online classes they have quadruped — since the pandemic began.

Some survivalists may be prepping for the end of the world, but for MacDonald it’s about being prepared.

“There are three classifications: emergency survival, primitive living skills and bush craft. I teach mostly emergency survival. Bush craft is when you’re out in the wilderness and refining your skills in the wilderness. And primitive living is when people want to do things the old-fashioned way.”

ALSO READ: More than 15,000 people have died in Canada due to COVID-19

Ryan Pearce, 35, of Saskatoon doesn’t live off-grid. He says he is a hobbyist who enjoys learning bush craft.

His online group called “Preppers & Survivalists of Canada” has more than 6,000 members. Since the pandemic began, the group has seen a 50 per cent increase in participants, he says.

“Some of them are moms asking, ‘How do I refrigerate my meat like our grandparents used to do?’ or just preparing food out of your gardens or hunting,” Pearce says.

Jonathan Rawlesis a co-founder of a website called Survival Realty based in the United States.

More Americans and Canadians are buying remote properties in rural Alberta and British Columbia, he says.

“Since the coronavirus pandemic and panic started, we’ve seen our web traffic for interest in rural off-grid remote survival properties double,” Rawles says from his home in Idaho.

Many buyers are attracted to the simple way of living that survivalism offers, he adds.

“We see people concerned about the virus being in a densely populated city. But then we also see people who now have freedom to relocate and live where they want to be because of remote work,” Rawles says.

“And so this has been something that’s really pushing people to make changes perhaps they’ve been intending to or wanting to for a long time.”

The Canadian government recommends people be prepped for at least a 48-hour disaster, MacDonald points out.

“You should be prepared to scoop your family and move out of an area if there’s a natural or man-made disaster. And then you need to sustain yourself for 72 hours and hope for the best, yet prepare for the worst.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls club Pink Shirt day design focuses on kindness

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Most Read