Red Cross swimming program coming to an end in 2022

The Canadian Red Cross will no longer be providing swimming and lifeguard lessons.

The organization has been teaching people how to swim for three-quarters of a century, but it said it needs to direct more attention toward areas such as its disaster and pandemic response.

"The move ends an era that began in 1946 – when drowning rates in Canada were considerably higher than those we see today. Since then, Red Cross has provided swim training and lifesaving skills to more than 40 million Canadians," the organization said in a release.

"We are enormously proud of what we have accomplished in providing water safety training and we are truly grateful to entire generations of staff and volunteers who dedicated themselves to creating a program of the highest standard," said CEO Conrad Sauvé, in a news release.

Aqua Essence Swim Academy is a training partner with the Red Cross and Rishona Hyman, the owner and founder of the academy, said they found about the news on Tuesday.

She said she was surprised by the decision.

"Honestly, my initial thought was that it's an end of era," said Hyman. "Everyone took Red Cross lessons, like everyone we know, it's just what you did."

Hyman added the Red Cross has been a constant presence since her business opened 20 years ago and there will now be a "void".

"It's very emotional."

She said the Red Cross lessons will be in place for the rest of the year but organizations are being told to transition to different options.

The Red Cross said companies should shift to programs offered by the Lifesaving Society of Canada.

A spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg said the Red Cross will continue to support the city for the rest of the year as it works on a transition.

"Leisure Guide Learn to Swim programming will continue as offered and planned for now, with no changes to the current Winter session. Additional information will be shared as we work with the Canadian Red Cross on this transition," the spokesperson said.

They added they don't believe the transition between programs will impact the ability to provide quality lessons.