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

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
Saanich teen ‘locked inside,’ regaining speech after severe brain hemorrhage

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Nearly 1,200 residents between Sooke and Port Renfrew lost power on Tuesday, Jan. 26. (BC Hydro)
UPDATE: Power restored for nearly 1,200 residents in Sooke, Port Renfrew

Outage in Port Renfrew due to fallen tree on power lines

North Saanich is giving local businesses a break by waving renewal fees for 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich waives business renewal fees for 2021

The municipality raised $48,000 from businesses licences in 2020

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Cowichan Tribes chief Squtxulenhuw (William Seymour) confirmed the first death in the First Nations community from COVID-19. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes confirms first death from COVID-19

Shelter-in-place order has been extended to Feb. 5

Most Read