Canadian Red Cross is winding down its Swimming & Water Safety and Lifeguard training to focus on surging humanitarian demands

Canadian Red Cross is winding down its Swimming & Water Safety and Lifeguard training to focus on surging humanitarian demands

January 19, 2022

The Canadian Red Cross is winding down its Swimming & Water Safety and Lifeguard training to focus on surging humanitarian demands in other areas – such as disaster, pandemic response, opioid harm reduction, and caregiving for seniors. The Canadian Red Cross Swimming & Water Safety and Lifeguard Programs will no longer be offered as of January 1, 2023.

During 2022, Red Cross is supporting its current Training Partners in making the transition to the swimming, lifeguarding, and aquatic leadership programs of the Lifesaving Society Canada. The exception will be in First Nations communities where the training will continue as part of the Red Cross Indigenous Peoples Framework.

With the help of the Canadian Red Cross the Lifesaving Society has designed a Transition plan and information resources on their website.

Gail Botten 
Advisor, Program Development

It brings me joy to have shared this journey with you as active participants in the lifespan of this movement. All staff and all volunteers throughout the ages have contributed to the development of an amazing leadership training program designed to prevent drowning.

We pay homage to those few amazing individuals, who in 1946 responded to the need, who believed that with skills and education, lives could be saved and who trusted the Red Cross to set in motion a wave of humanity that has travelled for 76 years.

In this moment, I want you to know that you guys are amazing, and I thank you for sharing the Red Cross initiatives. You have modelled leadership, created a nurturing and safe environment in which all children and youth are encouraged to  learn skills that will see them through a lifetime of aquatic enjoyment. You have built a community of people, all passionate about enabling our interactions with water to forever be fun and be the foundation of so many friendships. Your passion for drowning prevention interventions has created the most wonderful mosaic that is part of the fabric of Canadian life. To know how to swim, to prevent injuries and to prevent drowning is a value we all hold true. 

Please  know that from all of us at the Red Cross, past and present, we are forever in gratitude of your generosity, passion, expertise and time, counted not in hours but in years and decades. Most sincerely we say, you are amazing.  You are the reason  Canadians can build a lifetime of memories with a foundation of safe enjoyable experiences in, on and around the water. Thank you for your service.


  • The Canadian Red Cross has made a decision to wind down its involvement in all swim and lifeguard programming in order to direct more attention to surging humanitarian demands in other areas – such as disaster and pandemic response, opioid harm reduction and caregiving for seniors.
  • Specifically, all swim and lifeguard training currently offered through Red Cross will be transitioned to the Lifesaving Society Canada through the course of this year. 
  • The exception will be in First Nations communities where water safety training will continue as part of our Indigenous Peoples Framework. Beginning in 2023, that training will utilize LSC curriculum.
  • Today’s action was driven by regular assessments of all Red Cross services that consider evolving humanitarian needs, the evolution of the marketplace and alignment with our strategic direction as defined in Vision 2025.
  • In the case of water safety training, the conclusion of a three-year review was that the relative humanitarian need has been surpassed by ever-rising demands in other areas, such as the pandemic, the opioid crisis and caregiving for seniors.
  • As you well know, we are already heavily engaged in all those areas - and that is expected to continue.
  • Statistically, drowning rates in Canada have been in steady decline since 1994.
  • On average, 500 Canadians die each year in water-related incidents. By comparison, Opioids alone are now attributed to more than 6,000 deaths annually. 
  • While the data clearly supports this shift in our direction, I can tell you the decision to step away from water safety was not taken lightly.
  • Red Cross is very proud to have provided water safety training to over 40 million Canadians in the past 75 years.  And we are truly grateful to you and entire generations of staff and volunteers who dedicated themselves to creating a program of the highest standard.
  • The arrangement with the Lifesaving Society was chosen as the best path forward to ensuring our exit from water safety would not disrupt Canadians’ access to critical training.
  • The Lifesaving Society is a respected, accomplished organization that has long shared our passion to reduce drowning and aquatic-related injuries.  We have every confidence the water safety training needs of Canadians will continue to be well-served in their care. 


  • If you are a water safety instructor trainer, please know your certification will be transferable to the LSC swimming leadership track. You can remain an Instructor Trainer with LSC going forward.  Details on the transition and pathway will follow in the coming weeks.
  • As for your capacity as either a Red Cross Swimming & Water Safety Master Instructor Trainer or Ambassador, I’m sorry to report that those roles will no longer exist after 2022.
  • That said, I want to assure you that you remain important to Red Cross and the work we do -- and that there are other wonderful opportunities within the Society that may be of interest to you.
  • I would encourage you to speak with Kevin Paes or Michele Mercier (Quebec) over the coming year to see if there is a fit for you within other program areas, such as our Opioid Harm Reduction project. 
  • You can also consider becoming a trainer for Psychological First Aid or First Aid -- if you are not already.
  • No matter what direction you choose, I hope you will accept my sincere gratitude for all you have already done to help reduce the number of annual drowning fatalities to a fraction of what they were when we started on this journey.