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.


2020    Lifesaving Society Alberta and Northwest Territories Branch Online Academy is launched.

2017    Mountbatten Medal is awarded to Andrew Pearson of Edmonton, Alberta.

2016    Russell Medal is awarded to Tyler Bailer of Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

2015    Mountbatten Medal is awarded to Tamara Loiselle of Calgary, Alberta.

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.

2007    The revised Swim for Life program is launched.

2006    Mountbatten Medal is awarded to Corey Wood of Calgary, Alberta.

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.

2003    Swim for Life program is introduced. Bronze Medals awards are revised.

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.

2001    Swim to Survive program is introduced. Lifesaving First Aid & CPR awards are introduced and receive accreditation from the Alberta government and federal government.

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.

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.

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.

1995    Junior Lifeguard Club program is introduced.

1991    Centennial year of the Royal Life Saving Society.

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.

1978    Aquatic Emergency Care award is established. Alberta & Northwest Territories Branch hosts its first provincial lifeguard championship.

1975    Lifesaving I, II, III are established to replace Elementary and Intermediate awards.

1974    RLSSC publishes the first edition of Alert: Aquatic Supervision in Action.

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.

1970    The Jack Boddington Award is instituted for voluntary service to the Branch.

1968    New Brunswick Branch and Newfoundland Branch are established.

1967    Alberta Branch becomes the Alberta & Territories Branch.

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.

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.

1962    Prince Edward Island Branch is established.

1961    Nova Scotia Branch is established.

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.

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.

1951    The first ever Mountbatten Medal, a Commonwealth wide rescue award, is presented to Robert Byron Wardle of Tilley, Alberta.

1948    The Canadian Council of Branches is created with power to issue awards in Canada and adapt the RLSS program to Canadian needs.

1945    Bronze Cross award is established.

1943    Red Cross Water Safety Service is developed with the assistance of the Royal Life Saving Society Canada.

1930    First recorded use of the Society motto: Whomsoever you see in distress, recognize in him a fellow man.

1928    Alberta's first Diploma (with honours) is awarded to Thomas Chivers of Edmonton.

1924    National Society receives its formal Royal Charter from King George V. 

1926    Alberta Branch is established.

1911    British Columbia Branch is established.

1910    Saskatchewan Branch and Manitoba Branch are established.

1909    Quebec Branch is established.

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.

1904    King Edward VII becomes Patron of the Society.  
Name is changed to Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS).

1896    First Bronze Medallion award in issued Canada. 
Diploma award is established.

1894    A.L. Cochrane is made Honorary Representative of the Society in Canada.

1893    HRH, the Duke of York, later King George V becomes the first president of the Swimmers' Life Saving Society.

1892    Bronze Medallion award is established. 30 lifesaving rescues are documented - 16 rescues by members of the Swimmers' Life Saving Society.

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.