Posted on June 21, 2011

Drowning Risk High for New Immigrants, Children: Report

Derek Abma, National Post, June 21, 2011

Summer officially arrived Tuesday, and with it the increased risk of drownings as Canadians increasingly take to the water to cool off.

Data released Tuesday by the Lifesaving Society, a charitable organization, suggest drownings in Canada have become more frequent in recent years.

Children younger than five and new Canadians are specifically at a greater risk of drowning, the group’s data suggest.

The group said drownings had been in long-term decline until 2004, when there were a total of 433 drownings, the lowest on record. That number rose to 492 in 2005; to 508 in 2006; and to 480 in 2007.

Official figures for the most recent years aren’t available from chief coroners and medical examiners. However, the Lifesaving Society said, based on initial emergency calls, the trend of more drownings has continued.

It said reported drownings were up 10% in 2010 from the year before.

For children younger than five, reported drownings totallled 22 last year, up from 14 in 2009, the group said.

“Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children, and the reality is that it can happen very quickly, in as little as 10 seconds,” Barbara Byers, public education director for the Lifesaving Society, said in a statement.

“Parents and caregivers should always stay within sight and two feet of young children when near water. Anything further away than two feet is not within arms’ reach, and it is simply not safe.”

Last years saw a rash of summer drownings, including several children in back yard pools.

The organization also pointed out a study it did last year showing people who have lived in Canada for five years or less are four times more likely to not know how to swim than longer-term residents.

“Over and over again, we heard from our focus group members that swimming was a very Canadian thing to do,” said Ms. Byers.

“Many said swimming pools and beaches were not easily accessible for them in their home country.”