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Lifesaving Society History

The Lifesaving Society has a long and proud history of teaching lifesaving to Canadians.

We trace our roots to the late 19th century in London, England where we 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, we became The Royal Life Saving Society.

In the 1950s, we were the first Canadian organization to adopt mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing as the method of choice over manual methods of artificial respiration. We started our first CPR training program in the 1960s. In the 1980s, we initiated a project to design an economical CPR training mannequin now known as ACTAR 911®.

Founded in 1911, Lifesaving Society Manitoba has been proudly saving lives and educating Manitobans about water safety for over 110 years. We train all of Manitoba’s National Lifeguards.

On April 19, 1911, over forty participants attended a meeting in Winnipeg with the objective of forming a Manitoba Branch of the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS). Many of them held lifesaving awards from other countries and had been teaching classes in Winnipeg for some years. Five months later, the Branch was officially inaugurated on September 6th, 1911, with a full slate of officers elected under the leadership of President J. A. Aikens, Esq., M.P.



Despite the fact that there was only one “swimming bath” in the City of Winnipeg, the Society was very active in its early years.


Exhibitions were given to various rural areas to spread interest in the Society outside its Winnipeg base.

Early 1930s

A great deal of progress was enjoyed as the number of awards issued increased until the effects of the depression were heavily felt.

Late 1930s

The number of awards issued was erratic because of the depression.


Awards were at an all-time low of 3 because of the effects of the war.


The Society was back on track with the authorization of the newly formed Canadian Council of Branches, as several clubs became affiliated with the lifesaving program.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba issued 166 awards, the third highest total in the history of the Society, which was especially gratifying because it was achieved despite the Winnipeg spring flood disaster.


The Society received the prestigious William Henry Memorial Cup with an outstanding 140% increase in the number of awards issued.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba witnessed the opening of many new aquatic facilities, with 3 in major northern communities.


The first Branch office opened in Winnipeg.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba hosted the RLSS of Canada National Annual Conference featuring the Alcohol & Aquatics Symposium and the inaugural National Lifeguard Championship in Winnipeg in May 1977.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a new and revised Constitution, incorporation, and a new lifesaving program to carry them into the 1990s.


The Society was certifying close to 7000 award holders per year in the province of Manitoba. The WATER SMART® initiatives mark a large step in the challenge of making all residents and visitors to Manitoba water smart through various public education projects including a Northern Water Smart® initiative designed for and with Indigenous people.


The 100th Anniversary of the Commonwealth RLSS.


The Canadian Life Saving Program is revised.


The Society hosted the national conference, Exposure’94 and the Canadian Lifesaving Championships.


The Jim McDiarmid award, a special The Lifesaving Society Manitoba recognition award, was developed in the memory of Jim McDiarmid a long-time dedicated member of the Society who (among his many citations for recognition of service to the Society) was made a Honourary Life Member of the Royal Life Saving Society.


The Centennial of the Bronze Medallion award in Canada.


The New Canadian Swim Patrol and Bronze Star awards are launched.


The Society participated as an expert witness in a provincial inquest.


New Lifesaving First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation awards are introduced. Revisions year for Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross. The Society participated as an expert witness in a provincial Inquest.


Revised National Lifeguard Service (NLS) award released. The 40th anniversary of NLS.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba launches the Swim for Life program and renews its’ involvement with a Northern Communities Water Smart® Program featuring Swim to Survive, BOAT & Emergency First Aid Training.


First Manitoba agency instructing CPR 30:2, based on the 2005 ILCOR CPR changes.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba releases First Aid Instructor’s Resource CD, everything needed to teach in Power Point.


Churchill Manitoba becomes an affiliate and chooses to run the Swim for Life Program.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba celebrates its 100th year in Manitoba.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba host the National Annual Meetings and the Canadian Lifeguard Emergency Response Championships.


Lifesaving Society Manitoba moved to its new offices on Provencher Blvd.


The launch of the revisions to the Leadership Training Programs and enhanced online resources for Instructors/Examiners, Trainers, and National (Branch) Trainers.


The 125th anniversary of the Royal Life Saving Society.


The World Conference for Drowning Prevention is held in Canada for the first time and is hosted by the Lifesaving Society Canada B.C. Branch. Manitoba presents our Northern and Remote Swim Program to the Conference.


The revised Bronze Awards were released. The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread shutdown of aquatic facilities across the province as public health orders were issued to control the spread of the virus. Despite this 3,103 Lifesaving Society certifications were issued for courses/exams that occurred. The disruptions of the global pandemic also saw the Lifesaving Society of Canada for the first time in its 125 years grant extensions to Lifesaving Society certifications required by aquatic staff across the country for employment.


The pandemic continued to present challenges for aquatic facilities to open and run program. The National Lifeguard updates were approved for implementation in 2022.


After 75 years of offering swimming lessons, the Canadian Red Cross announced they were no longer offering aquatic programs and partnered with the Lifesaving Society Canada to transition their aquatic training partners to the Lifesaving Society Swim for Life program.