Historical Highlights

crc120-social-share-icon-batoche.jpg120 Years of Canadian Red Cross History

The Canadian Red Cross has played a significant role in Canadian society for over 120 years. A new Canadian Red Cross digital history project provides all Canadians the chance to interact with over 120 years of Canadian Red Cross history and the opportunity to share their own Red Cross artifacts or items that have been part of their lives. Explore the site >


Precursors: 1885-1896

Canadians first put the symbol and humanitarian ideals of the Red Cross to work in 1885, during the North West Rebellion in present-day Saskatchewan. Although there was no official Red Cross organization in Canada at the time, certain individuals were familiar with the Red Cross movement that had taken root in Europe during the 1860s and 1870s.

Getting Started: 1896-1913

After being founded in 1896, there wasn’t much for the Canadian Red Cross to do. Red Cross societies generally only worked in wartime, at this point, and Canada was at peace. Then, in 1899, the British Empire went to war in South Africa (known as the “Boer War,” 1899-1902), and several contingents of Canadian soldiers were sent overseas to fight.

The First World War: 1914-1918

The First World War marked a major turning point for the Canadian Red Cross Society (CRCS), establishing it as Canada’s leading wartime humanitarian aid organization. From the moment the war broke out in August 1914, Canadians were keen and enthusiastic supporters of Red Cross work.

The Interwar Years: 1919-1939

The Canadian Red Cross Society (CRCS), like most national Red Cross societies, had grown so rapidly, and accomplished so much, during the First World War, that its leaders were reluctant to see it disappear again, after the end of the war. They felt it could accomplish great things in peacetime as well.

The Second World War: 1939-1945

The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 returned the Canadian Red Cross Society (CRCS) to its roots as a wartime humanitarian aid organization, and returned it to the size and strength of 1918... and then some.

The Postwar Era: 1946-1989

At the end of WWII, the Canadian Red Cross Society (CRCS) moved smoothly back into full-time public health work. Older initiatives like the outpost hospitals, First Aid and Home Nursing training, the Junior Red Cross, disaster relief, port services, and services to veterans in hospital carried on into the new post-war period.

A Time of Change: 1990-1999

The 1990s were a momentous decade for the Canadian Red Cross Society, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 1996 and at the same time unofficially re-branded itself as simply “Canadian Red Cross” (CRC). Many of the CRC’s core programs and relief efforts continued unabated, but new avenues of service also opened up.

Into a New Millennium: 2000-2010

As the 21st century dawned, the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) continued its important work in the areas of disaster relief, First Aid and water safety training, community health, and reuniting family members (now known as Restoring Family Links). Building on its strengths as it moved into the future, the CRC was particularly active in disaster relief during this decade.