History of ORN

History of ORN

What is Operation Red Nose?

Operation Red Nose is an annual December campaign against impaired driving. It provides a free, volunteer-run designated driver service which caters to all motorists who have been drinking or who do not feel fit to drive their own vehicle. It provides patrons a safe, confidential ride in their own vehicle without getting behind the wheel themselves – and it’s free. All volunteer teams – made up of an escort driver, designated driver and navigator – as well as all other volunteers undergo a police background check and are insured for liability by provincial sponsor Canada’s Home Car and Business Insurances. The service runs weekends from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.,  Fridays and Saturdays from the last weekend of November to the weekend before Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, when there are more opportunities for people to drink. In addition to being a large-scale designated driving campaign, Operation Red Nose is a fundraiser for organizations who work with young people. Each year, more than $1 million is raised by host organizations who sign contracts stipulating all money collected through Operation Red Nose is handed over to one or more recognized non-profit youth organizations.

Operation Red Nose’s philosophy

Certain values underlie the philosophy of Operation Red Nose. It is non-moralist and is neutral regarding the consumption of alcohol. Our position is simple: if you drink, don’t drive. Call a cab, call a friend, spend the night or call Operation Red Nose.

Why call it Operation Red Nose?

Operation Red Nose was the name used by the Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Valcartier near Quebec City for its annual mid-winter exercise held in the frigid month of February. Organizers thought this name was perfectly suited to a volunteer designated driving service offered during the cold climes of December. Permission was granted to use the name for our innovative road safety campaign. The name also refers, of course, to Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer – also the name of our playful Mascot – who lit Santa Claus’ way one foggy Christmas Eve.

How it all got started

Jean-Marie De Koninck, a university math professor and coach of Laval University’s Rouge et Or swim team, was looking for a way to help fund athletic scholarships for athletes. In September 1984, he learned of frightening statistics surrounding impaired driving. He learned more than 50 per cent of all fatal vehicle accidents were caused by impaired drivers. And most late night drinkers insist on driving their own vehicles even though their condition suggested otherwise. Most people, it seems, do not feel comfortable leaving their vehicle behind. De Koninck decided to recruit about 25 swimmers from the Laval team and offer late night drinkers a free ride home in their own vehicle. De Koninck quickly received the support of the Quebec City Police and local radio station CHRC who got behind the idea and the first Operation Red Nose campaign was born in December 1984. In its inaugural year, the free volunteer driver service escorted 463 motorists and their vehicles to their destination. The program has grown tremendously over the years and now operates in 95 regions in Canada (25 outside Quebec). The service has also expanded to parts of Europe.

Registered non-profit corporation

In 1985, following its inaugural success, Operation Red Nose became a duly incorporated non-profit organization whose mandate is to foster, assist and support the development of other local Operation Red Nose campaigns throughout Canada. De Koninck, the creator of Operation Red Nose, remains president of the national corporation. Operation Red Nose and its trademark are the exclusive property of the corporation and only recognized host organizations may use it under specific conditions. The corporation does not charge host organizations for staging the annual program.