Order of St John | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Order of St John

Order of St John

The Order of St John, formally The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, originated as a religious military order founded in the 11th century at the time of the Crusades and named for the Church of St John the Baptist in Jerusalem, where a hospital for sick pilgrims was established. (The Order still maintains a hospital there.) The revival of the Order in Britain occurred in the reign of Queen Victoria, who became head of the Order in the British realm; succeeding monarchs have continued this office. The Order focused on the need for care of the injured during the Industrial Revolution. In this way the St John Ambulance Association and the St John Ambulance Brigade were established, the former to teach first aid and the latter to set up a uniformed brigade of volunteer workers for the care of the injured in mines and other industries. In 1883 the St John Ambulance Association and the Brigade began work in Canada.

The Order has continued caring for injured people at the site of their employment or in large crowds, and also teaching first aid to the general public. During the 1960s the Order of St John was instrumental in promoting the use of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in Canada, which is now universally accepted, along with cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, as the most effective method of saving lives. St John Ambulance has councils in each province and territory, some 25 000 volunteers, 7000 certified instructors and over 300 staff members. It trains approximately 800 000 Canadians each year in first aid, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and health promotion.

As the queen is head of the Order in Canada, the governor general is Prior and all lieutenant-governors are invited to become Vice-Priors at the time of their appointment (Knights or Dames of the Order of St John). The present knights and dames of the Order are those who have given particular service to the work of the Order. Others who have rendered service may become members of the Order in the ranks of serving brother or sister, officer brother or sister, or commander brother or sister.