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'Tragedies occur far too often': Canada Safety Council shares swimming safety tips

With the summer swimming season fast approaching, the Canada Safety Council is reminding people to be careful and take measures to prevent drowning, especially after three children died just days apart.

“We never like to see these kinds of situations. Tragedies occur far too often,” Lewis Smith, manager of national projects at the Canada Safety Council, told in a phone interview.

In the past week alone, two children drowned in backyard pools in Ontario — a three-year-old girl in Ajax and a three-year-old boy in Oakville.

And in the early hours of Monday morning, the RCMP said the body of a 12-year-old boy from Winnipeg who fell into the water at Sturgeon Falls in the Whiteshell Provincial Park on Saturday was located and recovered.

Smith said the recent tragedies are part of a larger trend.

According to the Lifesaving Society’s 2020 Drowning Report, nine per cent of all unintended water fatalities in Canada happen in backyard pools and roughly one-third happen in lakes or ponds. Most drownings occur from May to September, the report notes.

“It's a serious issue and it's something that is certainly worth addressing as the summer months get closer and closer, because that is where we see most drownings in Canada occur,” Smith said.


Parents who have young children should actively supervise their children to prevent drowning incidents, Smith said, adding that no child under the age of five — at the bare minimum — should be in a body of water without “strong, active” parental supervision.

“Parents need to keep an eye on their children when they're around water at all times, ideally within an arm's length, because drowning can occur very quickly, very suddenly, very unexpectedly,” he said.

Making sure that children do not have easy access to water is equally important for preventing accidents, Smith said. For example, he recommended making sure that bodies of water, including backyard pools, are fenced off to prevent children from sneaking in unattended or from slipping and falling into them.

When it comes to moving bodies of water like lakes, rivers and rapids, Smith said it’s important to ensure that you’re keeping a safe distance so that you don’t get swept in unintentionally.

“It's always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and to give any body of water a healthy amount of distance unless you’re intending to be in it,” he said.

Learning to swim properly — not just knowing how to paddle — can also help prevent drowning.

Having someone around when you’re swimming — even if you’re an experienced swimmer — is another preventative measure, Smith said, noting that a large number of unintentional water fatalities happen when a person is alone.

“Having someone with you can help mitigate the damage, can help make sure that if someone is struggling, they can be supported and can just ensure that if anything sudden and unexpected is happening, they’ll be right there to help,” he said.

Smith also stressed the importance of wearing life jackets when you’re on a boat.

“Life jackets really do need to be worn — even if you're not intending to go into the water. If you do get thrown overboard, it'll be too late at that point to find a life jacket,” he said. Top Stories


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