Early Canadian Red Cross Water Safety Badges

Date / Period
Object Type
Badges, Pins, Medals and Stamps
Croix-Rouge canadienne
Swimming and Water Safety

During the spring of 1946 the Canadian Red Cross announced a new program designed to “reduce the toll of deaths from drowning” and “promote a most healthful and clean form of exercise and physical development.” The goal was to teach swimming safety to children, especially in rural areas where opportunities to learn life-saving techniques weren’t available. Red Cross branches were asked to survey how many eight to eighteen-year olds in their communities could swim. The program was divided into junior, intermediate, and senior levels.

The first batch of program instructors in Ontario were required to be over the age of 16, have passed the existing senior Red Cross swim test, and earned a lifesaving award from other recognized organizations. The Red Cross covered the tuition fee for anyone sent to attend the first training session in the province, held at the University of Toronto in May 1946. At the end of the program’s first year, the Ontario branch reported that despite lower-than-expected attendance due to a shortage of heating coal and a polio epidemic, 447 qualified instructors handed out badges to over 3,300 students. 

“Avoid panic, stay calm, and conserve strength.”

In Quebec, the Red Cross program was incorporated into McGill University’s physical education degree course. In an August 1947 article on the growth of the swim safety program, the Shawinigan Standard printed eight tips from the Red Cross that all swimmers should follow:

  • Know the extent of their physical endurance.
  • Do not swim alone, or dive into strange water without investigating the safety angle.
  • Do not go in swimming immediately after a meal.
  • Do not attempt to rescue if other means are available to reach the victim, boat, pole, etc.
  • How to handle a boat and canoe.
  • Avoid panic, stay calm, and conserve strength.
  • Know how  to treat cramps.
  • Know how to act if caught in weeds, undertow, or whirlpool, etc.

Early Canadian Red Cross Water Safety Badges

Early Canadian Red Cross Water Safety Badges
Early Canadian Red Cross Water Safety Badges
Water safety lessons
Water safety lessons in a swimming pool. Photo: Canadian Red Cross

Stay Informed & Stay Connected