On May 19th, 1909, the passing in Parliament of The Canadian Red Cross Society Act established the Canadian Red Cross to serve Canadians as auxiliary to Government and the public authority, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Prior to 1909 it operated as a branch of the British Red Cross.
Within Canada our six areas of excellence are: disaster management; injury prevention; community resilience and capacity building; health and social programs, violence and abuse prevention, and humanitarian issues and international humanitarian law.
Internationally, we are a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, with approximately 100 million volunteers worldwide. The movement includes the International Committee of the Red Cross, which acts as a guardian of the Geneva conventions and is tasked under international humanitarian law to protect the lives and dignity of victims caught in situations of armed conflict.
The other arm of the movement is the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which coordinates the national disaster response activities of more than 186 national societies, like the Canadian Red Cross, and each acts as auxiliary to the government in its own country.
Red Cross developed our Swimming and Water Safety program in 1946 with the sole purpose to reduce the incidence of drowning in Canada. The Red Cross provides training to increase the capacity of Canadians to respond appropriately in all water environments. Since 1946 our swimming and water safety program has trained over 31 million Canadians to swim and safely enjoy water activities.
During this same period the drowning rate in Canada has fallen from 8 in 100,000 people to 2.5 in 100,000. Our program continues to teach children, youth, and adults about water and boating safety in communities across Canada.
Our Swimming and Water Safety program has continued to evolve to meet the changing needs of Canadians, culminating in our most recent program, Red Cross Swim. As a continuation of our commitment to water safety, Red Cross launched the newest component of our Swimming and Water Safety program – Red Cross Lifeguard in 2009. This program was built on the same research, knowledge, expertise, and high quality standards that made our Swimming and Water Safety programs so successful.