About Us


St. John Ambulance is a component of the Priory of Canada (whose legal name is The Priory of Canada of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem). St. John Ambulance carries out its mission in Canada under two main arms, training and community services.

As Canada’s standard for excellence in first aid and CPR services, St. John Ambulance plays an integral role in our society. Building on a 900-year tradition, St. John Ambulance offers innovative programs and products, ensuring Canadians receive the best quality and expertise.

Quick Facts:

  • Established in 1883 in Canada
  • Member of one of the world's oldest humanitarian organizations - the Order of St. John
  • Serving communities across Canada
  • 25,000 volunteers provide two million volunteer hours annually
  • 6,000 certified instructors
  • Provides first aid and CPR training programs that contain the latest protocols and meet provincial and federal regulations
  • Trains more than 550,000 Canadians in first aid and CPR each year
  • Markets a complete range of high quality first aid kits and supplies for use at work, home and play
  • Supports humanitarian relief efforts across Canada and around the world

Establishment of St. John Ambulance in Canada

  • The first certificates in first aid were issued in Montreal in 1883
  • The Canadian Branch of St. John Ambulance Association by a Special Act of Parliament in 1910
  • Became a Commandery in 1933
  • Established as a Priory in 1946
  • Incorporated as a not-for-profit (charitable) organization in 1994 under the legal name “The Priory of Canada of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem”


The Order’s story begins in 1099 as the knights and soldiers of the First Crusade entered Jerusalem. The sick and wounded crowded the city, but those suffering from leprosy were segregated outside the walls in an ancient leper hospice. One French monk, assisted by crusaders who had themselves contracted the disease, took on the onerous challenge of caring for all lepers, regardless of their religion. Following the end of the Crusades, the knights and monks of St. Lazarus became responsible for operating leprosy hospitals (Lazar Houses) throughout Europe in countries like England, Scotland, and France.

The Order arrived in Canada (New France) in 1599 when Henri IV appointed the Grand Master of the Order as the Lieutenant General of New France. With the fall of New France in 1763 the Order ceased its activities in North America. It returned to Canada in 1962 when the Honourable J. Keiller MacKay, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, arranged for the investiture of twenty Knights, Dames and Commanders in Toronto and was himself installed as the first Grand Bailiff.

Over the past 50 years, the Grand Priory in Canada has grown to approximately 400 members in thirteen local branches (known as Commanderies or Delegations) stretching from St. John’s to Victoria. A bilingual, registered charitable organization, it welcomes women and men into its ranks. Globally, the Order maintains its ancient, Christian heritage and original mandate to assist those suffering from leprosy.

The Order in Canada has adopted hospice/palliative care as a primary mission. For the most part, the Order collaborates with other Hospice/Palliative Care organizations within the various commandery areas by lending its resources, both human and financial.

One example is the publication of A Caregiver’s Guide. The Alberta commanderies worked closely with the provincial palliative care community to create this much-needed resource. Since the initial publication in 2000, the Order has sponsored the national printing and distribution of more than 275,000 copies in English, French, two Inuit languages, and Traditional Chinese Characters.  The book is now considered one of the go-to resources for organizations and individuals caring for patients and loved ones. Its use has been adopted internationally with translated editions published in Portugal, Australia, China, and Japan. 

Further information about the Order of St. Lazarus and the work we do can be found at www.stlazarus.ca.