Lifesaving Society History
Canada's Lifeguarding Experts
The Society has a long and proud history of drowning and injury prevention leadership in Canada. The Society traces its roots to the late 19th Century in London, England with the beginning of The Swimmers' Life Saving Society. As early as 1896, 18 young Canadians earned the first recorded Bronze Medallion in Canada at Upper Canada College. In 1904, we become The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) under the patronage of King Edward VII. The first RLSS Branch was started in Ontario in 1908, soon followed by the Quebec Branch in 1909. The Alberta Branch was formed in 1924.
Today we are known to Canadians as the Lifesaving Society, Canada's lifeguarding expert. As a national volunteer organization and registered charity we stand committed to the ideals that first formed the Society back in 1800's. Over the past century we have expanded our programs, been on the forefront of research and embraced innovative thinking.
1891 The Swimmers' Life Saving Society is formed in England by William Henry for the purpose of providing lifesaving training to reduce the number of drownings. Name is later changed to the Life Saving Society. First lecture delivered by Sir Andrew Clark, personal physician to British Prime Minister William Gladstone.
1892 Bronze Medallion award is established.
30 lifesaving rescues are documented - 16 rescues by members of the Swimmers' Life Saving Society.
1893 HRH, the Duke of York, later King George V becomes the first president of the Swimmers' Life Saving Society.
1894 A.L. Cochrane is made Honorary Representative of the Society in Canada.
1896 First Bronze Medallion award in issued Canada.
Diploma award is established.
1904 King Edward VII becomes Patron of the Society.
Name is changed to Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS).
1908 Ontario Branch, the first RLSS branch in Canada, is established. It is directly affiliated with the parent Society in England.
Award of Merit is established.
1909 Quebec Branch is established.
1910 Saskatchewan Branch and Manitoba Branch are established.
1911 British Columbia Branch is established.
1924 National Society receives its formal Royal Charter from King George V. Alberta Branch is established.
1928 Alberta's first Diploma (with honours) is awarded to Thomas Chivers of Edmonton.
1930 First recorded use of the Society motto: Whomsoever you see in distress, recognize in him a fellow man.
1943 Red Cross Water Safety Service is developed with the assistance of the Royal Life Saving Society Canada.
1945 Bronze Cross award is established.
1948 The Canadian Council of Branches is created with power to issue awards in Canada and adapt the RLSS program to Canadian needs.
1951 The first ever Mountbatten Medal, a Commonwealth wide rescue award, is presented to Robert Byron Wardle of Tilley, Alberta.
1955 RLSS was reorganized into five independent self-governing branches (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom) coordinated by the Commonwealth Council of National Branches.
1959 Alberta Branch wins the William Henry Memorial Trophy (Commonwealth competition).
M.G. Griffiths Award (highest Canadian rescue award) is instituted.
RLSSC becomes the first national organization to teach the direct "mouth-to-mouth" method for artificial respiration.
1961 Nova Scotia Branch is established.
1962 Prince Edward Island Branch is established.
1963 The Canadian Lifesaving Program is launched as the comprehensive national lifesaving program with consistent national content and standards.
The first Canadian Lifesaving Manual is published, initiating 40 years of scientific contributions to lifesaving.
Mountbatten Medal is awarded to Kenneth David Howlett of Edmonton, Alberta.
1964 National Lifeguard Service is officially launched, creating lifeguard standards and training which established the RLSSC as the leading world lifeguarding expert.
Mountbatten Medal is awarded to Lynda Dann of Vulcan, Alberta.
1967 Alberta Branch becomes the Alberta & Territories Branch.
1968 New Brunswick Branch and Newfoundland Branch are established.
1970 The Jack Boddington Award is instituted for voluntary service to the Branch.
1973 RLSSC becomes a member of World Life Saving.
British Columbia Branch becomes the British Columbia & Yukon Branch.
Alberta & Territories Branch becomes the Alberta & Northwest Territories Branch.
1974 RLSSC publishes the first edition of Alert: Aquatic Supervision in Action.
1975 Lifesaving I, II, III are established to replace Elementary and Intermediate awards.
1978 Aquatic Emergency Care award is established.
Alberta & Northwest Territories Branch hosts its first provincial lifeguard championship.
1986 British Columbia & Yukon Branch hosts Rescue '86 - the first biannual international symposium and lifesaving competition - highlighting the RLSSC's leadership in the world lifesaving community.
1991 Centennial year of the Royal Life Saving Society.
1995 Junior Lifeguard Club program is introduced.
1996 Centennial year of the Bronze Medallion award in Canada.
Royal Life Saving Society Canada is renamed Lifesaving Society. A new visual identity is introduced.
1999 Mountbatten Medal is awarded to Vanessa Bailey of Calgary, Alberta.
Canadian Swim Patrol and Bronze Star awards are launched.
Safety Standards for aquatic facilities are published.
2000 The internationally acclaimed Canadian Swim to Survive Standard is published.
Swiftwater Rescue and Boat Rescue for First Responders programs are introduced.
Canada sends a national team and teams from the provinces to compete at Rescue 2000 World Lifesaving Championships in Sydney, Australia.
2001 Swim to Survive program is introduced.
Lifesaving First Aid & CPR awards are introduced and receive accreditation from the Alberta government and federal government.
2002 Zone System implemented in Alberta and Northwest Territories to enhance and support Lifesaving Society initiatives. Zones are aligned with the Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
2003 Swim for Life program is introduced.
Bronze Medals awards are revised.
2004 National Lifeguard (NLS) awards are revised. 40th anniversary of the NLS awards.
Mountbatten Medal Letter of Commendation is awarded to Kelly Hawken of Red Deer, Alberta.
New leadership philosophy and Program Model Design are implemented for consistent quality delivery of leadership programs.
2006 Mountbatten Medal is awarded to Corey Wood of Calgary, Alberta.
2007 The revised Swim for Life program is launched.
2009 Alberta/ NWT Branch hosts Edmonton 2009: RLSS Commonwealth Conference & Lifesaving Championships.
Safety Management Training and Accreditation programs are launched: Head Lifeguard, Aquatic Management Training, Aquatic Safety Inspector, Aquatic Safety Auditor and Supervision, Evaluation and Enhancement (S.E.E.) Auditor.
2015 Mountbatten Medal is awarded to Tamara Loiselle of Calgary, Alberta.
2016 Russell Medal is awarded to Tyler Bailer of Wetaskiwin, Alberta.