Red Cross Lifeguard. Skilled. Proud. Ready.

Red Cross LifeguardsBuilt on Canadian and international expertise, the Red Cross Lifeguard program is the most up-to-date of its kind in Canada.

The Canadian Red Cross Lifeguard program has been developed in accordance with rigorous Red Cross quality standards and will meet all provincial/territorial legislation requirements in addition to being aligned with the international lifeguard standards.

Canadian Red Cross understands and respects the aquatic facilities’ right to choose programs that meet their needs; therefore, the Red Cross is offering them an alternative, high-quality lifeguard program.

The content of the Red Cross Lifeguard program follows the Canadian Red Cross injury prevention philosophy and all industry requirements including international lifeguarding standards. The program will be delivered by certified Canadian Red Cross Lifeguard Instructors trained through our comprehensive Instructor Development Program.

By introducing the Canadian Red Cross Lifeguard program, we can better support aquatic facilities and the Canadian public through a continuum of training from learn-to-swim programs for infants, kids, teens and adults, to first aid and lifeguarding. 

Course Description

Red Cross Lifeguard is a two-step certification program designed to provide candidates with the knowledge and skills to become effective lifeguards. This course emphasizes hands-on practice and scenarios, and includes high-quality resources such as a full-colour manual. Qualified instructors provide continuous evaluation and feedback throughout the course to help encourage each candidate’s success.


New First Aid Guidelines and Red Cross Lifeguard

The Canadian Guidelines Consensus Task Force was established in 2015 and comprises the Canadian Red Cross, Heart and Stroke Foundation, St. John Ambulance, Canadian Ski Patrol and Lifesaving Society. The intent of this task force is to bring together the largest not-for-profit first aid and CPR training agencies in Canada to achieve consensus on the implementation of new changes to protocols, guidelines and science, and to share this consensus document across the country. The recommendations, released at the Canadian Emergency Care Conference in February 2016, have been adopted by each of the task force members, and will be the basis for each organization to develop their training materials and instructor training.

The Canadian Red Cross is currently working on updating protocols in the Red Cross Lifeguard Program based on the work of the Canadian Guidelines Consensus Task Force – specifically the impact of changes on oxygen administration, unresponsive patient positioning, and spinal motion restriction procedures. Training Partners and Instructors will be notified as we progress.

To ensure program changes are happening nationally across all lifeguard programs the Canadian Red Cross has requested to collaborate with the Lifesaving Society on a consistent interpretation of the rationales and best practices and in creating a consensus for the protocols specific to in-water rescue. We value working together to ensure the lifeguarding community is confident in the protocols used and that our programs reflect the latest in evidence-based lifeguard training programs.

The new guidelines will not affect our definition of drowning as we have not used near, dry or secondary drowning terminology since 2008. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines drowning as the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid; outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity.  There was consensus in 2005 that the terms wet, dry, active, passive, silent, and secondary drowning should no longer be used to allow for simple, consistent and internationally recognized methods of reporting drowning.  Agreed-upon terminology is essential to describe the problem and allow effective comparisons of drowning trends. The Canadian Red Cross Lifeguard Program currently uses conscious or unconscious drowning terminology to describe a drowning person based on the recommendations from WHO and the Red Cross First Aid Programs.

Until we identify the launch date for the revised programs, Training Partners and Instructors are advised to continue using the existing protocols as identified in our program standards for Red Cross Lifeguard.  

The Canadian Red Cross will communicate program updates once all research and recommendations have been finalized.

The Red Cross believes building standards for the industry which are based on competencies and the latest in scientific evidence-based inputs will result in a stronger program and highly skilled lifeguards.

To access the 2016 Canadian Consensus Guidelines on First Aid and CPR document please visit Please contact your Swimming & Water Safety Representative with any questions.

Call 1.877.356.3226 for more information!

*This program is not available in Quebec and BC.