History of the Lifesaving Society

The Lifesaving Society's motto is “Whomsoever you see in distress, recognize in him a fellow man.”

The Lifesaving Society's mission is “To prevent drowning and other water-related incidents in Canada.”

The Swimmers Lifesaving Society

The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), which is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2016, was established in England in 1891. It is a volunteer organization and charity dedicated to the prevention of drowning, and has independent, self-governing branches active in 27 Commonwealth countries.

The RLSS works with affiliates, partners and volunteers to reduce drowning though public education and awareness, lifesaving and lifeguard training, survival swimming and swimming instruction, risk management, lifesaving sport, research into the causes and prevention of drowning, and advocacy for sound drowning prevention standards. 

HM Queen Elizabeth II is the Society’s Patron, and HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO is the Commonwealth President. It is governed by the Commonwealth Management Committee, which comprises elected Branch Presidents representing Asia Pacific, Americas/Caribbean and Africa/Europe. The Society is affiliated to the International Lifesaving Federation (ILS), which is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the world authority on the global effort to prevent drowning.

The Lifesaving Society Canada

The Lifesaving Society has a long and proud history of teaching lifesaving to Canadians.Its roots trace back to the late 19th century in London, England where it began as The Swimmer’s Life Saving Society. In 1894, Arthur Lewis Cochrane brought to Canada the lifesaving skills he learned in his homeland, and he passed them along to students at Upper Canada College in Toronto, Ontario. In June 1896, eighteen of his students were the first recipients of our distinguished Bronze Medallion award, the first award created by the Society. Under the patronage of King Edward VII in 1904, Society became The Royal Life Saving Society. Today, it is simply called the Lifesaving Society. In the 1950s, the Lifesaving Society was the first Canadian organization to adopt mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing as the method of choice over manual methods of artificial respiration. CPR training followed in the 1960’s.  In the 1980s, the Society initiated a project to design an economical CPR training manikin now known as ACTAR 911®.

Nowadays, the Lifesaving Society is represented across Canada with Branches in each of the 10 provinces. A National Office exists in Ottawa to represent the Lifesaving Society Canada with all other national and international organizations (such as RLSS Commonwealth and the International Lifesaving Federation); is the official liaison with the Federal Government and its agencies; and is the legal owner of all National mandatory programs, products, services and activities.  In turn, each Branch of the Lifesaving Society Canada represents the National organization with all provincial/territorial and municipal/local organizations, affiliates and the public; and provides the National mandatory programs, products, services and activities throughout the geographical jurisdiction of the Branch.

William Henry, founder of the RLSS. 

Queen Elizabeth II has received her Bronze Medallion. 

Rick Stilling, longtime volunteer with the Lifesaving Society Saskatchewan is awarded during the HRH Prince Michael of Kent 125th Anniversary Certificate of Merit.