St. John Ambulance Canada has its roots in the Order of St. John founded in 1023 by the Blessed Gerrard who established a hospice in Jerusalem to care for ill and injured pilgrims visiting the holy sites. Confirmed in 1113 by Papal Bull issued by Pope Paschal II, the Order of St. John grew in power and influence in both the Holy Lands and in Europe (along with the Templars).
Following the split from the Catholic Church by Henry the VIII, the Order of St. John ceased operations in England until its revival in 1831 where it began to provide first aid courses and ambulance services in the
coal districts. In 1888 it received Royal Charter from Queen Victoria eventually becoming the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem.
The charitable activities of the Order of St. John are St. John Ambulance which provides first aid training and community service, and the St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem.
St. John Ambulance in Canada was formed in 1882. The first courses were offered in Quebec City and by 1883 they were being taught at RMC in Kingston. In 1909 the first Ambulance Division was formed in London for men, and 1912 saw the first Nursing Division in Toronto for women.
In 1910 and 1911 a major reorganization took place in the work of St. John Ambulance in Canada. The newly formed Canadian “Branch” saw one of its tasks be that of extending the scope and increasing the efficiency of the Association by organizing it on a regional basis, thus developing local interest in its activities. This was to be done by establishing Provincial Councils in every province of Canada, which would be responsible for administering local centers already active within the province as well as promoting the formation of new centres. With this new found growth, in 1911 the creation of a Canadian District of the Brigade Overseas took place. The Canadian Headquarters of the Brigade Overseas was located in Toronto until 1933, and subsequently moved to Ottawa.
The Canadian Brigade Overseas took on an international role during WWI and WWII with its involvement with the Voluntary Aid Detachments. Over the years the increase in St. John activity led to the creation in 1934 of the Commandery of the Order in Canada, which in 1946 was elevated to a Priory.
St. John Canada (Priory of Canada) is the second largest establishment in the Order of St. John, following the Priory of England and supports the mission of the Order of St. John through the work carried out by the St. John Ambulance Foundation and the St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem.