Battle of Batoche Illustration


1885 (Northwest Rebellion)Red Cross flags are flown for the first time in Canada, to protect medical personnel on the battlefield.

1896Toronto surgeon Dr. George Sterling Ryerson secures permission to start a Canadian branch of the British Red Cross.

1899–1902 (Boer War)The Canadian Red Cross undertakes its first major wartime relief effort, aiding sick and wounded troops in South Africa.

Founding of the Canadian Red Cross


1909The Canadian Red Cross reorganizes and is incorporated by the Canadian government  through the Canadian Red Cross Society Act.

1911-1914Creation of Canadian Red Cross provincial branches begins.

Halifax Explosion


1914-18 (First World War)The Canadian Red Cross mobilizes Canadians from coast to coast for wartime humanitarian aid, providing an estimated $35 million worth of cash, supplementary medical supplies, and comforts for sick, wounded, and captured military personnel.

1917 (Halifax Explosion)The Canadian Red Cross and the American Red Cross cooperate to provide relief for thousands left homeless or injured by the collision and explosion of two munitions ships in Halifax Harbour.

1919The Canadian government amends the Canadian Red Cross Society Act, adding a new mandate for peacetime public health work with civilians.

Junior Red Cross


1920Provincial Canadian Red Cross divisions establish outpost hospitals and nursing stations to provide basic healthcare for Canadians in rural and remote areas.

1919-22The school-based Junior Red Cross programme (focusing on good health, service to others, and international friendliness) is established in every Canadian province.

1927The International Committee of the Red Cross recognizes the Canadian Red Cross as an independent Red Cross Society, following changes in Canada’s colonial relationship to Great Britain.

First Aid


1929-39 (Great Depression)Provincial divisions of the Canadian Red Cross provide aid to unemployed, homeless, and/or disabled First World War veterans and their families.

1931The Canadian Red Cross launches a National Emergency Appeal to raise funds for the relief of citizens impoverished by the Great Depression.

1930sThe Canadian Red Cross experiments with first aid training in certain parts of the country not served by existing first aid organizations.

Prisoner of War Parcels


1939-45 (Second World War)The Canadian Red Cross again mobilizes citizens to provide wartime humanitarian aid for military personnel. New initiatives include aid to war-affected civilians, civilian blood collection for military use, and overseas service by the women volunteers of the Canadian Red Cross Corps. More than $121,000,000 is spent on this wartime work.

1946The Canadian Red Cross launches its Swimming and Water Safety program to address high rates of drowning fatalities in Canada. First aid work expands.

1947The first two Canadian Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service clinics open, inaugurating Canada’s first national blood system for civilian use. Citizens give and receive blood for free.

Red River Flood


1950 (Red River Flood)The Canadian Red Cross provides emergency aid to some 30,000  flood victims and evacuees – its largest domestic disaster relief response to that point.  

1952The Canadian Red Cross hosts global delegates in Toronto at the 18th International Red Cross Conference.

1956-57The Canadian Red Cross provides financial support and trained personnel to support Hungarians in European refugee camps after a political uprising is violently crushed.

Rendezvous ’67


1961Establishment of the Quebec City blood depot effectively completes the nationwide Canadian Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service.

1965The International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement articulates its seven Fundamental Principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.

1967The Canadian Red Cross celebrates Canada’s 100th birthday with an international Red Cross Youth conference in Ottawa.



1970The Canadian Red Cross initiates its Seniors Services program to improve the health and independence of older Canadians.

1979Vietnamese refugees and starving Cambodians are the focus of major national appeals and Canadian Red Cross international relief work.

1979A train derailment in Mississauga, Ontario leads to the largest evacuation to-date in North America. The Canadian Red Cross runs 14 of the 15 shelters.

Water Safety


1984The Canadian Red Cross launches RespectEd: Violence and Abuse Prevention program with the aim to break the cycle of hurt through prevention education.

1985Following a tornado in Barrie, Ontario, the Canadian Red Cross works with municipalities to respond to more than 10,000 requests for help at reception and information centres.

1987After 91 years in Toronto, the Canadian Red Cross moves its national headquarters to Ottawa.

Ice Storm


1997Canadian Red Cross efforts in campaigning against landmines help lead to the signing of an international treaty to ban landmines.

1998In Quebec, more than 3,000 volunteers participate in rescue and relief efforts during a destructive ice storm.

1998The national blood program pioneered by the Canadian Red Cross is transferred to Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec.

First Nations


2001The Canadian Red Cross provides food, lodging, and comfort to passengers stranded in Canadian airports when the September 11 terrorist attacks lead to more than 250 flights being rerouted to Canada.  

2004 (Tsunami in Southeast Asia)Canadians respond generously to the millions affected by a devastating tidal wave and the Canadian Red Cross serves as conduit for the largest outpouring of financial support by Canadians in history for a single disaster ($337-million CAD).

2007The Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Red Cross sign a Memorandum of Understanding in an effort to improve the quality of life, health, and safety of First Nations people across Canada.



2011-16 (Syrian Conflict)Within Syria and surrounding regions the Canadian Red Cross provides aid and medical support, as well as assisting in the arrivals of thousands of refugees in Toronto and Montreal.

2013The Canadian Red Cross continues its history of domestic disaster relief at Lac-Mégantic, Alberta flood zones, and ice storm-crippled areas of southern Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

2016Wildfires cause the largest fire-related evacuation in Alberta’s history. The Canadian Red Cross provides shelter and emergency food, clothing and financial assistance to evacuees thanks to a record-breaking fundraising effort during Alberta Fires Appeal.

2016The Canadian Red Cross marks 120 years of providing humanitarian assistance and improving the living conditions of vulnerable people in communities across Canada and around the world.

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