St. John Ambulance Canada

St. John Ambulance in Canada, or SJA (French: Ambulance Saint-Jean Canada (ASJ), is a confederation of St John Ambulance Provincial and Territorial Councils under mandate by the "St John Councils Regulations 1975" of the Royal Charter, Statutes and Regulations of the Order of St John (1985). Each Council is governed by a Board of Directors under Provincial or Territorial incorporating legislation together with the St John Ambulance Priory in Canada, incorporated under the federal Canada Not For Profit Corporations Act (2012). The Priory provides support services to the Councils and manages the Order of St. John in Canada. The Councils deliver the mandate of training and community services and are responsible for their own governance, operations and management.

St. John Ambulance
Ambulance Saint-Jean
St. John Ambulance logo in Canada. The red maple leaf surrounding the Maltese Cross in a black roundel.
Formation1882 in Canada 1888 by Royal Charter
TypeRegistered Charities in the Provinces and Territories
Legal statusIncorporations under legislation in the Provinces and Territories
PurposeHealth and safety training and volunteer community services
Region served
Throughout Canada
25,000 members in more than 300 communities
Official language
English, French

The mission of St. John Ambulance in Canada is to enable Canadians to improve their health, safety, and quality of life through training and community service.[1] St John Ambulance in Canada has (collectively) close to 25,000 members in communities across Canada - 5,000 instructors, 12,000 volunteers and over 7,000 members of the Order of St John.


St. John Ambulance was established in Canada in 1884. Under this banner, volunteers from coast-to-coast carry out the humanitarian services of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

  • 1883 First first aid course in Canada is conducted in Quebec City.
  • 1884 St. John Ambulance Association is founded in Montreal.
  • 1892 - 1898 Branches are founded in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
  • 1909 First Canadian Ambulance division (No. 1 Forest City) is formed in London, ON.
  • 1912 First Canadian Nursing division (No. 1 Central) is formed in Toronto, ON.
  • 1920s St. John Councils work closely with the Workmen's Compensation Boards throughout Canada to establish safety standards in the workplace
  • 1933 First two Cadet divisions are formed in Manitoba (52c, Seven Oaks) and Ontario (47c, Timmins).
  • 1935 First Cadet Nursing division (18c, Vancouver Central) is formed in Vancouver, BC.
  • 1939-45 St. John Ambulance Nursing units from each Council are deployed in European theatre of war working closely with the Canadian Army in field hospitals and institutional settings.
  • 1951 Canadian Red Cross (CRC) and St John Ambulance in Canada sign the St. John Ambulance-Canadian Red Cross Joint Operations Agreement in which SJAC recedes from offering blood services and the CRC recedes from offering First Aid training to industry.
  • 1972 the Northwest Territories became a Territorial Council and runs the Air Ambulance Service in the Mackenzie Delta on behalf of the GNWT.
  • 1973 St. John Ambulance in Canada modernizes its teaching methodology by instituting the multi-media approach to training and dispensing with the lecture method. WCBs in Canada continue to partner with St John Ambulance throughout Canada.
  • 1977 CRC begins offering First Aid training to industry setting aside the 1951 agreement on Joint Operations with St. John Ambulance in Canada
  • 1996 Yukon becomes a Branch of the British Columbia Council
  • 1999 SJAC celebrated the 900th anniversary of the Order of St. John, together with the Alliance Orders of St. John, worldwide.
  • 2006 Prince Edward Island Council merges with Nova Scotia Council to become the NS/PEI Council
  • 2008 St. John Ambulance Canada celebrates its 125th anniversary, marking the first first aid course given in Canada, in Quebec City in 1883.
  • 2009 The 125th anniversary of the inaugural St. John Ambulance first aid course conducted in Ontario at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario. According to a plaque laid at RMC, this course, which was conducted for the benefit of gentlemen cadets and staff, initiated a close and continuous association between St. John Ambulance and the Canadian Forces.[2]


On 3 January 1982, Canada Post issued 'St. John Ambulance, 1883-1983' designed by Louis Fishauf. The 32ยข stamps are perforated 13.5 and were printed by Ashton-Potter Limited. in 2008 Canada Post issued a similar envelope/stamp in recognition of the 125th Anniversary of SJAC.[3]


Led by a highly skilled network of medical and health care professionals, St. John Ambulance in Canada is a recognized leader in first aid and CPR training and community services, working with other organizations in setting the standards for training in first aid, CPR and other life-saving skills. St. John Ambulance in Canada also offers many advanced level courses including the Medical First Responder (MFR) and Emergency Medical Responder EMR) in several provinces.

Medical First Response Services

The Medical First Response Services were formerly known as St. John Ambulance Brigade and are often still referred to as such, both within the organization and by others. Each MFRS unit are a group of trained volunteers that serve within their community in a variety of ways. Services include first aid services at public events, Medical Services support in times of emergency or disaster, and youth programs that encourage community service and personal development.

SJAC provides patient care and first responder services at public events throughout Canada with their Volunteer Community Services, much in the same way as in England. Members in Canada wear a similar uniform, and are trained to the new Medical First Responder (MFR) program.[4] In Nova Scotia, the volunteers no longer use the term "Brigade" or "Ambulance". They are now referred to as "St John Volunteer Medical Response". This change came about in an attempt to better reflect what the volunteers can offer to their communities.

Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and British Columbia are the only provinces that still wear their full uniform. In Ontario, operational (duty) uniform consists of a pair of black cargo pants (or tactical pants), a button up black shirt (with 'Medical First Responder' reflective on the back) or a Polo shirt. All will be marked with "Medical First Response" and "St. John Ambulance Volunteer" crests on both sleeves. Members in training or are working towards their MFR qualification will either wear a white shirt with "St John Ambulance Volunteer" crests on both sleeves, a black polo shirt, or an unmarked white dress shirt for probationary observers. Worth noting is that probationary observers already have a minimum of standard first aid training plus police security clearance. Rankings are clearly marked on epaulettes. For ceremonial, winter or certain indoor functions a black wool sweater and a black tie are also worn. For head dress, a SJA hat/ cap may be worn at outdoor events. A beret/ peak cap is worn for ceremonial or winter functions. Footwear consists of a pair of black boots/ shoes. It is important to note that Officers (with ranks of 1 pips and above) are also entitled to wear their ceremonial (No. 1) uniforms. The uniform consists of an officer's cap, a white shirt with tie, a tunic with metal buttons, pins, rank pips and full medals, a pair of black pants or skirt and black dress shoes.

Air and Ground Ambulance Services are no longer offered by St John Ambulance Councils in Canada. New Brunswick and Northwest Territoires Councils once offered such services.

Therapy Dog

The SJA Therapy Dog Program began in 1992 in Peterborough, Ontario and has expanded across the country. Partnerships have been established in hospitals, palliative care units, day care centres, senior residences, rest homes, special needs schools and psychiatric hospitals where people are often restricted from having pets. The Therapy Dog program sees a volunteer and their dog make visits to an institution, often on a weekly basis. Before beginning the handler and their dog undergo extensive testing to ensure the animal has the right temperament for the program. There are many benefits to animal-assisted therapy, including decreased blood pressure and heart rate in patients as well as a chance for positive social interaction.[5]

We Can Help

SJAC provides elementary school students in grade 3 with the We Can Help Program, which provides children with an introduction to first aid skills and basic injury prevention messages, is designed for children ages seven through ten.

Youth Programs

Youth in SJAC are a very important part of the organization as well. The proficiency program allows youth members to gain the Grand Prior's award, as well as work toward the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Proficiencies are awarded for such demonstration of knowledge of subjects, both related and unrelated to the organization. The program is designed to meet the requirements of the Grand Prior's Award, and to give the youth valuable life skills. The Grand Prior's Award is achieved when the adolescent has completed 6 compulsory and 6 elective proficiency courses. In addition to this, youth members are given the opportunity to perform community service at public events, provided that they are supervised by trained adult members.

Disaster planning and aid

In times of emergency, SJAC can be placed on standby, waiting to provide disaster relief and emergency services to the effected area. Exactly what procedures are taken greatly depends on local Disaster Management planners, however the government of Canada has officially recognised the role SJAC fills in the process. Supplies and equipment may vary as well as numbers of personnel immediately available in the area, but SJAC does have a plan already in place, in the form of the National Duty Officer, for the callup of additional personnel and equipment to augment local Units. This program is under review in New Brunswick as such a program is no longer established in most cities in the province.

Positions, ranks and insignia

Some Councils in Canada have demilitarized the "Brigade" (now "Medical First Responder" or "Volunteer First Responder") dispensing with military-style ranks. However, other Councils in Canada (specifically BC/YK, Sask, Ontario and Quebec) still utilize military rank insignia similar to the current rank insignia of the Canadian Army. Physicians have epaulets with red borders. Registered Nurses wear their rank insignia over a red bar. Licensed Practical Nurses wear their insignia over a green bar while Paramedics wear theirs over a blue bar. Medical First Responders wear epaulets with one or two orange bars (Ontario)(Uniform standards were changed in 2008, but many members still have the older epaulets.)

Insignia Positions
Crown over pip over two crossed stretchers, all in silver (insignia of a General) National Commissioner
Crown over two crossed stretchers, all in silver (insignia of a Lieutenant-General) National Deputy Commissioner
Pip over two crossed stretchers, all in silver (insignia of a Major-General) National Medical Officer
National Nursing Officer
National Training Officer
National Cadet Officer
National Planning Officer
National Therapy Dog Coordinator
National Administrative Officer
Provincial Commissioner
Crown over three pips in a triangle formation, all in silver (insignia of a Brigadier) National Deputy Medical Officer
National Deputy Nursing Officer
National Deputy Training Officer
National Deputy Cadet Officer
Provincial Deputy Commissioner
Crown over two pips, all in silver (insignia of a Colonel) Provincial Medical Officer
Provincial Nursing Officer
Provincial Cadet Officer
Provincial Training Officer
Provincial Administrative Officer
Provincial Planning Officer
Provincial Therapy Dog Coordinator

Provincial Medical First Response Coordinator
Provincial Operations Officer
Provincial Chief Staff Officer
Area Commissioner

Crown over pip, all in silver (insignia of a Lieutenant-Colonel) National Staff Officer
Provincial Deputy Medical Officer
Provincial Deputy Nursing Officer
Area Medical Officer
Area Nursing Officer
Area Training Officer
Area Cadet Officer
Area Administrative Officer
Area Therapy Dog Coordinator
Crown over pip over bar, all in silver Corps Superintendent
Crown in silver (insignia of a Major) Area Staff Officer
Provincial Staff Officer
Crown over bar, all in silver Corps Medical Officer
Corps Nursing Officer
Corps Training Officer
Corps Cadet Officer
Three silver pips (insignia of a Captain) Provincial Staff Officer
Area Staff Officer
Division Superintendent
Division Medical Officer
Division Nursing Officer
Division Therapy Dog Coordinator
Three pips over bar, all in silver Corps Staff Officer
Two silver pips (insignia of a Lieutenant) Provincial Staff Officer
Area Staff Officer
Division Staff Officer
Division Provisional Officer
Division Training Officer
Division Administrative Officer
Division Community Service Coordinator
Division Asst. Therapy Dog Coordinator
Two pips over bar, in silver Corps Staff Officer
Silver pip (insignia of a Second Lieutenant) Provincial Staff Officer
Area Staff Officer
Division Staff Officer
Division Provisional Officer
Silver pip over bar Corps Staff Officer
Three white upward-pointing chevrons Sergeant
Therapy Dog Evaluator
Two white upward-pointing chevrons Corporal
Blank epaulet Member


See also


  1. "Mission, Vision, Values". Retrieved 2008-09-29.
  2. St. John Council for Ontario plaque 6 June 2009
  3. Canada Post stamp
  4. The St. John Ambulance Medical First Responder Program
  5. Miller, Julie. "Animal-Assisted Therapy". JSTOR 3522980. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. "Rank Insignia - Canada". Archived from the original on 2005-02-14. Retrieved 2012-07-12.
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