Salvation Army Guiding in Canada

Life-Saving Guards & Sunbeams

Life-Saving Guard Badge, c.1915-1937

Through the work of Founder, William Booth, in discussion with Lord Baden-Powell, the Salvation Army created a Salvationist Scouting program in the early years of the 20th century. The Life-Saving Scouts program for boys was introduced in England in 1913, followed by the Life-Saving Guards for girls in 1915. The original Aim of the Life-Saving Guard program was “to spread Christ’s Kingdom among girls and women of all classes, as well as to those attached to our Corps and to train them” (The Officer, December 1915). These programs made their way to Canada in 1915, and groups sprang up across the country. Branches for younger members soon appeared, and were called Chums and Sunbeams, respectively.

Establishment of the Fernie, BC Life-Saving Guards
(The War Cry, February 26, 1927)

Like their Guiding counterparts, Life-Saving Guards and Sunbeams went camping, earned badges, put on concerts and displays, helped their communities, and practised new skills. Their program included “physical drill, observation tests, healthy games, methods of First Aid, … life-saving … cookery, needlework, home nursing and housewifery” (The War Cry, February 26, 1927). Guards passed through Second Class and First Class tests before striving for the General’s Tassel. This highest award for Guards or Scouts had very high standards, including “hold first class rank, have passed tests for saving life in fire or accident, have a good knowledge of how to tend the sick, possess a number of proficiency badges and in many other ways prove himself or herself to be a tip-top Guard or Scout.” (The War Cry, March 9, 1929)

Affiliation with Girl Guides of Canada

Salvation Army Guide, c.1950s
ID Badge, 1937 to 1954

On April 16, 1937, The Salvation Army signed an Memorandum of Agreement with the Canadian Council of the Girl Guides Association. Under the Agreement, the Life-Saving Guards and Sunbeams would retain their own identity and leadership, but adopt Guiding tests, training, and awards. The organization would also be represented on the National Council. By October, Life-Saving Guards had traded their grey and red uniform for Guide blue with a grey and scarlet tie, and Sunbeams had traded their grey and yellow uniform for Brownie brown with a yellow tie. The change in name took somewhat longer to accomplish, with terms such as “Guard Guiding” and “Sunbeam Brownies” being used until about 1944.

Download a list of Salvation Army Territorial Guide Directors

ID Badge, 1954 to 1984

1950 – An Ontario Salvation Army Scouter/Guider Conference is established, bringing together leaders from both organizations at Jackson’s Point, Ontario. The Conference is held annually for many years, including the 30th Anniversary event in 1980 at Robin Lake Camp.

1954 – In August, a group of 22 Guides and 6 adults attend the 1st International Salvation Army Guide Camp held near Oslo, Norway.
A new Salvation Army Identification Badge, featuring the Maple Leaf and Guide Trefoil, is designed.

1957 – The first General’s Guide Award in Canada is presented to Dale Hunt, Company Leader of the 4th St Thomas (S.A.) Company.

1961 – Membership reaches 3,824 Brownies, 2,810 Guides, and 8 Rangers. This marks a growth of nearly 1,000 members over a 5-year period.

Getting acquainted in a circle of friendship at Storybook Gardens in London, Ontario, are members of a Salvation Army Guide Company and their guests from Bermuda.
(The Canadian Guider, June 1963)

1962 – A Salvation Army Sea Ranger Crew from Bermuda visits Toronto and London, Ontario, in July. They meet with Canadian Guiding members, including spending a few days at the Toronto Girl Guide Camp.

1963 – For the first time, Divisional Guide Camps are held in all Provinces during the summer.
A group of 16 Guides and their leaders from London, Ontario, pay a return visit to the Sea Ranger Crew from Bermuda during the Easter holidays.
Territorial Guide Director Major Mary Murkin is presented with the Medal of Merit.

1964 – Divisional Guide Captain Oney Flowers is presented with the Beaver Award.

1965 – Salvation Army Guiding celebrates 50 years since it’s beginnings as the Life-Saving Guard Movement in 1915. A Centenary Camp for Scouts and Guides is held in August at the Connaught Ranges near Ottawa, with 442 participants from all parts of the country.

1967 – Two National Camps are held to mark Canada’s Centennial, one at Sandy Hook in Manitoba for Scouts and Guides, the other at Lac L’Achigan in Quebec for Guides.
Salvation Army Director Mrs. Harold Coulding of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, is presented with the Certificate of Merit.

1970 – Territorial Guide Director Brigadier Mary Murkin is presented with the Beaver Award.

1972 – The first Salvation Army Ranger/Venturer Camp is held at Camp Madawaska in Ontario.

ID Badge, 1984 to 1998

1983 – There are 324 registered Units, with approximately 6,000 Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders, Rangers and Cadets.

1984 – A new Trefoil is introduced and the Salvation Army Identification Badge is redesigned.

1987 – 50 Years of association between The Salvation Army and Girl Guides of Canada is celebrated.

Download a list of Salvation Army Guiding Units (incomplete list)

Promise, Purpose, and Pledge

Salvation Army Guides, Rangers, and Adults make the same Promise as other Guiding members, with an additional pledge, outlined in Orders and Regulations for The Salvation Army Girl Guide Organization: “I promise to abstain from the use of intoxicating liquor, and tobacco and from gambling, and all other injurious habits.” (1956), later updated to be “I promise to abstain from the use of intoxicating drink, drugs, tobacco, gambling and other injurious habits.” (1983).

At first, Brownies are expected to accept The Salvation Army Purpose: “DO RIGHT, Pray morning and evening, Abstain from the use of strong drink and tobacco, Be truthful and never steal.” (1956), but by 1971 they make the same pledge as the older branches.

Spiritual Standards

The purpose of Salvation Army Guiding and Scouting is to promote the spiritual, physical and mental development of youth people and train them for service to others.”
– Major Pamela Woods, Territorial Guide Director, 1986

In addition to running Guide programming, Salvation Army Guiders were expected to “constantly and zealously … be leading members … to know Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour and Friend,”; ensure that members attend some form of religious service on Sundays, such as a Salvation Army Company Meeting, Sunday School Class, or Bible Class; work to recruit girls from non-church families in order to further The Salvation Army’s spiritual aims; lead opening and closing Prayers at every meeting; and host a quarterly “Guides Own” spiritual meeting. (Orders and Regulations, 1956, 1971, and 1983)

When the Religion in Life Emblem is introduced in 1950, The Salvation Army is among the first denominations to contribute their requirements for earning this award. Unlike other denominations, Salvation Army Guides and Rangers must repass the test requirements annually in order to continue to wear the badge!

Religion in Life Emblem, c.1950
  1. Serve in the Company Meeting (Sunday School) or other branch of The Salvation Army in some capacity requiring regular service and attendance.
  2. Pass an examination on a Scripture study course as set forth by the Y.P. Department at Territorial Headquarters.
  3. Promise to practice daily devotions (prayer and Bible reading).
  4. Recruit one or more girls not already connected with any Church or Sunday School.
  5. Make some regular contribution from your own funds for the furtherance of the Lord’s work.
  6. Have some knowledge of the story and growth of The Salvation Army.
  7. Know the foundation beliefs (doctrines) of The Salvation Army.

The Religion in Life Award is revised in 1971 to include 5 Stages: 1. Yellow (ages 7-9), 2. Green (ages 10-12), 3. Blue (ages 13-15), 4. Red (ages 15+), and 5. Purple (adults). In each Stage, participants complete age-appropriate activities related to Word, Worship, and Witness. Adults must also demonstrate specific actions and attributes of Christian Commitment and Christian Leadership.

Religion in Life Emblems, 1971

Download the 1994 Religion in Life Requirements

General’s Guide Award

General’s Guide Award, c.1964

Successor to the General’s Tassel earned by Life-Saving Guards, Salvation Army Guides could earn the General’s Guide Award. The award is described as “an attractive one-inch medal mounted with yellow, red and blue ribbon.” (Orders and Regulations, 1956, 1971, and 1983) The medal is worn on the right breast, above the pocket, on ceremonial occasions. A one-inch long ribbon bar may be worn on the uniform at all times.

1956 Requirements

  1. Hold the First-Class Guide Badge.
  2. Hold the Religion in Life Emblem, obtained or repassed within the previous 12 months.

1971 Requirements

  1. Hold the All Round Cord.
  2. Hold the Religion in Life Emblem.

1983 and 1994 Requirements

  1. Be at least 13 years of age.
  2. Be a Pathfinder or Ranger.
  3. Hold the Religion in Life Emblem (Stage 3 or 4), obtained or repassed within the previous 12 months.
  4. Hold the Gold level in four out of five Emblems in the Pathfinder programme or the equivalent in the Ranger programme.
  5. Must know the doctrines of The Salvation Army and be able to explain their meaning.
  6. Name the Generals of The Salvation Army and give a brief character sketch of the Founder.
  7. Write an essay of not less than 500 words on one of the following:
    • One of the parables showing the truth Jesus Christ was emphasizing.
    • One of the miracles of Jesus Christ.
    • An incident from the life of Jesus Christ.
  8. Describe briefly (by scrapbook or essay form), the work of The Salvation Army in her locality.

The End of an Era

Concerns about the diverging paths of The Salvation Army and Girl Guides of Canada appear in 1994, following the change in the Guide Promise to include the option of “my faith” or “my God” according to each individual’s personal conviction. A statement is issued in November by the Territorial Youth Secretary stating that “In all Salvation Army units the words “my God” are used and we have informed Girl Guides of Canada accordingly.” (The War Cry, November 5, 1994) Girl Guides of Canada agrees to this decision for Salvation Army Units.

The Canadian Guider, May-June 1998

Citing a shift in organizational values “minimizing God as sovereign, while exalting self”, a changing in the governance structure removing The Salvation Army as a voting partner on the National Council, and a steady decline in membership, The Salvation Army discontinues its relationship with Girl Guides of Canada as of June 30, 1998. (The War Cry, February 14, 1998) A final gathering of over 100 Guiders at Jackson’s Point, ON provides closure for long-term members, including the presentation of three Salvation Army Guider Awards and a 50-year Long Service pin.