We're launching a series on drowning prevention. This is a really important subject to us. In this first episode, we've convened a panel of experts and community stakeholders to talk about why we need to pay attention to this. We're really fortunate in Canada and the US to have such a robust lesson system. But now in a COVID world where those services have been restricted, or closed, or canceled altogether, we may not be fully aware of the risks. So let's dive in and dissect this and get some great information. Let's get into it.
The text that follows is an excerpt from our hour long conversation. The full video interview can be found on our youtube channel and by the link here. The full audio can be found by vis the Spotify link below
Lisa Hanson Ouellette
Adam Di Fulvio
Host, JMC Distribution & www.oceanjunction.com
Thank you everybody for being here. So I'm just going togo through some quick introductions. We have Barb from the Lifesaving Society.We have Eric from Shendy's Swim School in Toronto. We have Lisa from theCanadian Drowning Prevention Coalition. We have Adam from Canada Swim Schooland the Montreal Institute of swimming. We have Tamar Connell, as arepresentative from the YMCAs of Greater Toronto. And joining us from south ofthe border, we have Melissa Sutton from Active Kids Global. Thank you all forbeing here.
So I want to start just with some individual answers to asimple question. Has COVID or because of the robust nature of the system ofswimming and teaching in Canada and in the US, and we do such a good job ofmaking sure that every kid knows how to swim, in the COVID world where we'vehad basically a year and a half of no or little swimming, are we at risk of notreally understanding the true risk of drowning because we've done such a goodjob of preventing it in the past. I'm going to go to Adam and let him start.
Yep. So first, thanks for putting this all together,Jason. And yes. I mean, I'm located in Quebec, but we have definitely seen animpact from COVID on I guess what's happening with drownings. In Quebec alone,drownings were up over 51% last year in 2020, or summer of 2020.
A lot of these drownings, every drowning is preventable.But the vast majority or a good chunk of them were a direct result of what'shappening with COVID in terms of less pool or less supervise the area's beingavailable to swim, more people seeking out alternate ways to refresh themselveson hot days since a lot of pools were closed or had limited capacities. So alot of people seeking waterways, rivers, lakes, stuff like that. And there area lot of drownings there too.
Backyard drownings are up as well. It's important tomention that the fact that kids have had limited access, if any access, toswimming lessons over the past year and a bit is definitely a contributingfactor to that. So to answer your question, Jason, yes. The ongoing COVIDsituation has definitely had a negative impact on the number of drownings we'veseen here.
Okay. I want to go to Tamar next. Tamar, can you shareperspective from your perspective and that maybe of the YMCA as well?
Yes. So at the Y, we offer swimming lessons for, not onlychildren, but their adult parents as well. We have a lot of newcomer families at our centers. So ofcourse, our pools have been closed since the pandemic hit. These families, asAdam said, have been seeking out other places to go swimming. So we've heardabout, of course, these drownings that have happened.
We've worked to keep in touch with our families andeducate them on safer swimming habits. So utilizing our staff that are onqueues, etc, to just talk to them and say like, Swimwear, there's a lifeguardusing PFDs and life jackets, things like this." to just try and make surethat they're staying safe as possible. But we know like they are going to tryand find alternate sources. So it definitely is going to happen. But we want tokeep them as safe as possible.
Over to Barb, I want to know, from the perspective of aservice provider. Maybe you can dive into a little bit more of the meat of itbecause you sit on a lot of stats, you have a lot of information.
I think it's important to note, Jason, that of course ourstatistics are always a couple of years behind. But we do have the trend data.So if we look at the initial shutdown from COVID in the Spring 2020, we haveobservational and media reported data. So that observational data told us thatthere was a lot of outdoor activity and we did have drownings. Now, that wasn'tnecessarily all children, because again, the trend data is more to your adults.
Because our indoor and outdoor public aquatic facilitiesare life guarded, we've always had a low drowning rate there. And so some ofthe pools were open, some were closed, some were open, then we got into a lotof one on one swimming lessons, private lessons. Now, we're closed again.
The one good thing is the government has allowed us tocontinue on with leadership and life saving and lifeguard training and stafftraining. So I think we were able to run a really strong water smart campaign lastyear in the summer pf 2020, even with COVID, and the facilities not open in thecommunities to be our messengers. And so we took a different route and a verystrong social media approach. And it actually had a lot of really positiveimpact and went very well.
So I think the important thing for us to stay on top ofand watch for the summer of 2021, is that COVID has increased our outdooractivities significantly. There are less group programming, and of course lesssupervised public facility visits, and everybody's out in the outdoors.
And so then we have to look at the barriers of protectionin regard to how we go there. So we had a really strong WaterSmart campaignwith the town of Banff last year. And that's continuing, where the communitytook up the charge and the champion to the messaging outdoors with signage andthat sort of thing.
So I think what we have to do is not accept this as a newnormal. But we have to look at alternative strategies, the outdoor activities,and those areas. And we have to look at working towards maintaining thatindustry standard, not lowering it, but also trying to continue to make surethat there's training going on, especially the life saving and the leadership,because when we do open up again, and we will, we're going to need that basefor our facilities so that we can have supervision and continue the lowdrowning rate in those supervised areas.
Thank you very much. And I'm going to turn to Eric next.And I want to drill down a little bit more into the idea of whether or not asCanadians and Americans we take the low drowning rate in pools for grantedbecause stakeholders such as yourself have done such a good job of making surethat kids know how to swim, and people are water safe. Do we take that forgranted?
I don't think we take it for granted. I think that thedrownings, I think, will be interesting to watch this coming year, especiallywith the kids and the adults and new Canadians not having swam in so long. Wewere fortunate that the swim school to be able to run lessons from last summerto about November 24 to be exact.
So I think that because they've had such a long break,even the lifeguards are out of touch with what to do. So we can't guaranteethat this 1% drowning rate around supervised settings is going to stay at 1%.Our goal was to get supervised settings to zero. And Lisa will talk about thedrowning prevention coalition. That was the main goal. And I happen to sit onthat committee within the coalition.
But I always look back at the global report on drowning thatcame out a number of years ago. And they always said swimming lessons is reallyeither the number two or number three way to offset the drowning rate. Thefirst is to barrier water, to put up fencing. And the fact that they cut offlessons, really concerned me throughout the year. I did sit on a number ofcommittees and I went before media saying that we've got to make swimminglessons an essential service. But the essential word became this gray areaacross the country. So it wasn't a project we were willing to push through.
But back to your question, Jason, it's a concern. The factthat it's 1% right now, I think that number is going to go higher. We were alsofortunate like Barbara said to be able to operate lifeguard and life savingtraining through the pandemic safely with protocols. But the number oflifeguards that are going to be required to supervise these areas thatpotentially may open up this summer is concerning to me, because people are outof touch and out of practice.
I want to go next to south of the border and Melissa, andget your take on the same question. So it's a little bit different. And I'm goingto let the institutional experts speak on this in a moment. But tell us alittle bit about the US and Canada, the majority of drownings happen aroundopen water. Do you get the sense that people have taken water safety forgranted in the US?
I echo a lot of the sentiments that have already beenexpressed. But what we are seeing here ... And first, I want to also let youknow that I'm with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. So I've got themore national scope for us here as well. But I also am on board member for ourDrowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, so I can break it down to a littlebit localized. And that kind of is relevant to what you guys do, whether it'syour territories or Canada as a whole.
Certainly, we saw exactly what you were saying. And wefought the battles you fought. And similarly, we had to get creative withregard to our messaging and how we put it out there. It was definitely socialmedia and webcasts and relying on our communities to get the information outthat we couldn't do. We typically were seeing a trend downward because of allthe layers that we put in place.
Speaking to a little bit of what has been mentionedbefore, Arizona first saw its big decrease in drownings because of the barrierlaws that were put in place. And now barrier laws are still very weaknationally. So then we rely on the swim lessons that are provided, which as weknow, that didn't happen as much unfortunately last year.
So from a local perspective, Arizona's numbers definitelywent up. We had a horrible ... We were the lowest we've ever seen before in2019. In 2020, we're starting to shoot back up. And we attribute a lot of thatto lack of swim lessons, lack of supervision, we talk about the layers ofprotection. But in Texas because most of their drownings have been in thecommunity pools, their numbers went down.
So it's just kind of what data you're looking at how thosedrownings are taking place and where. But we also launched, at the nationallevel, the Resource Center, and we pushed that out as many channels as we couldto say, "Here's some resources, here's some information." And we'vehoned in on backyard pop up pools, because that was something we were startingto see as you guys are noticing. Not only were they going out to rivers andlakes, where we typically do see the majority of drownings nationwide and withour adults, but now we're starting to see these pop up pools. So we had to getinformation out about that.
So it was kind of just coming at us at all angles of,"Oh my goodness! What layers are being breached? And how do we message againstthem, because we can't have people in a pool being taught lessons." Andthen, as you guys know, we share Great Lakes. And that is a huge problem forus. I mean, I think there's recorded over 900 drownings that we know of on theGreat Lakes. I think just from our state reporting, I don't even know if thatincludes Canada's numbers. So I think I answered a lot of questions in thatone.
No, it was absolutely great. And actually I'm going toturn to Lisa next, and get Lisa to weigh in on that, and then bridge over totalk a little bit about the Canadian Drowning Prevention Plan. And then we'llbring Melissa back in in a minute. But so to you, Lisa, the same question on basically,have we taken water safety for granted? Do we expect to see an increased risk?And then tell us about the work behind the Canadian Drowning Prevention Plan?
Thanks, Jason, and thanks for setting this up. This issuch an important conversation to have. We've done a really great job settingup leadership programs, life saving, life guarding programs across Canada. Andwe see that echoed in terms of even fewer than 1% of drownings taking place inlife-guarded supervised settings. And I really been specific in terms ofidentifying supervised settings as being life-guarded when we're looking atthat number.
The Drowning Prevention Coalition technical working groupfocusing on supervised settings redefined that. They dug a little bit deeper.And Eric is privy to that because he sits on that technical working group. Andso other supervised settings may include boating activities, school activities,other places in, on or around water in which supervision is assumed.
And so we ran those numbers through the database, and I'lltalk about the fatal drowning database in a moment, we found that that numberincreased, that percentage increased to 3%. But still, one and 3%, they're verysmall numbers. So what's happening here? And I'm going to swing over to anotherpiece of your question. And then I'm going to talk about the fatal drowningdatabase here in Canada, because it's quite impressive and we're reallyfortunate to have that.
The Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition came about as aresult or in response to the World Health Organization's report on drowningback in 2014. And they put out a subsequent publication, preventing drowningand implementation guide in 2017. So the coalition came about and formed in around2016.
One of its key pieces of communications is the Canadiandrowning prevention plan. So what's it going to look like? It wasn't aboutimplementation, but rather about taking the data, combining it with theexperts, so that these experts could then create recommendations forimplementation. And then we have delivery partners, such as Lifesaving Society,Red Cross, and other stakeholders at various levels, and within various sectors,implementing these to make things happen, because we know that no matter whatit is that we say at a national level, and Melissa may get this too, we can saywhat we want to say. But the true magic happens at the community level. It's thosecommunities that take that information and make it their own.
So at a national level, we identified 13 possible targetareas. That's far too many. We were trying to narrow that down to five. We cameback with eight. That includes supervised settings because even though thatpercentage that we talked about earlier is really, really low, we figured itwould be the first and easiest to achieve zero. And the pandemic has thrown abig monkey wrench and all of that. But we can still strive to achieve zero.
So taking a look at stats just for a moment for 2020,because we talked about that earlier, and I have some from the DrowningPrevention Research Center of Canada. And again, that fatal drowning databasethat actually came about in and around 1990. So there were some questionstaking place about who was drowning. And so that information started to becollected. We have wonderful partnerships with the chief coroners and medicalexaminers across Canada. So we gather this data.
And so this database has been building for over 30 years, theenvy of the world. We have this data, it continues to grow. We also collectpreliminary data as part of this. And I say we because there was a recentamalgamation with the Drowning Prevention Research Center and the CanadianDrowning Prevention Coalition. So now we have, under one single umbrella, thedata and the experts working together. And of course, this is now falling undera broader banner within Life Saving Society Canada as well, and Life SavingSociety Ontario because of the PRC is linked into LSO. And so you now have adelivery partner.
So look at the different levels here. There's the layersof the drowning data, combined with the experts, combined with one deliverypartner, one delivery stakeholder of many, that can make this happen. So we'rejust now starting to figure out how this partnership is going to get tighter.But it truly is a dream to work with.
So I pulled up some data for you. And this includes somepreliminary data as well, because as Barb mentioned earlier, we're two yearsbehind in this. And that makes complete sense. We're working with the coroner'sand chief medical examiner's. And so many of these cases still have yet to beclosed. So we're always going to be looking about two years behind. But we trackinformation within the media, and we track that information and combine it andlink it up when we do get the actual data later.
So preliminary data from 2020 indicates that there were morefatal drownings in Canada than the previous year. So as compared to 2019.However, there were still more drownings in 2018, fatal drownings, than therewere in 2020. So that's an interesting thing to note.
Coming back to Adam's statement about Quebec, becauseQuebec has been a real outlier here, especially when we look at fatal drowningsin 2020. And so we see that there was actually a 64% increase in Quebec, whichis significantly higher than both 2019 and 2018. And so we need to take abigger dive into this, pun intended, to really look at the locations and thewho, what, when, where, and how.
So we have those bits and pieces as we present them in thenational drowning report each year. But we really will, this is going to beinteresting to see what's happened there, because it's really not ... It wasn'ta link to backyard pool fatalities per se. They weren't higher in 2020, eventhough there was a boom in backyard pool, pop up pool purchases, as Melissareferred to earlier. That wasn't the link. So again, research will come in andtake a look at this retrospectively, because that's all we can really do.
Yeah. That's great. I mean, I think that we'll definitelylook to check in with you on that as we progress. I want to turn to before Imove on more with the stats and whatnot, I want to turn back to Tamar, Eric andAdam, from a community perspective, given the information that Lisa justshared.
How are youimparting that message?
How are you bringing that message to your community?
To Adam first here.
So look, we've tried to take a very proactive stance interms of educating the community in terms of drowning prevention, that said, themost important thing the most important thing, in my opinion. One of the thingsthat we can actually do and what you want to do with the club is that this is alittle outside the box thinking, so bear with me everybody. But I feel thatwhat we can be doing is to sort of ... How do I say this? But I guess changethe expectation of when kids need to know how to swim. And I apologize again,if I'm going a little bit of topic. But one thing I wanted to get out there isthat there is an expectation out there that kids can only learn how to swimaround six, seven years old. That's the age that they become independentswimmers. And we've been trying really hard to sort of promote a lower age andmake parents know that you have to get kids into swimming at a younger age,because they can learn to swim on their own at a younger age. And this, inconjunction with the fact that we're trying to revamp our I guess, lessonprogramming, the Red Cross does an excellent, excellent job of this.
But from the very beginning, Red Cross is promoting watersafety from the very early levels. And this is something that needs to beexpanded across every swim program across the province, across the country. Andby educating families and swimmers at younger ages in terms of how to be safe; then in terms of what are the expectations forswimming & when should you be able to swim on your own, and how can you dothat safely, is a really good way, we feel, to start to help promote watersafety and reduce drownings even further.
Great answer. And there's nothing out of the box with thatanswer. So thank you for being proactive with that. Eric, I want to go to younext.
Well, I mean, we have continued to connect with ourcommunity of families that come to the swim school through social media,sending the newsletters on tips and tricks on how to be safe around water, justto make sure that's maintained throughout the year. I think it's going tobecome a situation where it's going to be the haves, and the have nots goingforward in the spring here in Ontario.
The haves will have backyard pools that can welcome aninstructor back there, which is a complete luxury. We did a bunch of programslike that last summer when families asked us to come to them. And so we cateredto them. And again, it's all about teaching kids and adults to swim that don'tknow how. So anybody we can get our hands on or off of to teach them how toswim, we're going to do it.
The summer camp industry, of which I'm very well connectedand part of the task force to open camps in Ontario, and we talked to the CanadianCamping Association as well regularly, it's like a 50/50 right now, don't quoteme on that. But as long as cases in different provinces continue to go down,the camps might be another place to promote lessons in aquatics, and so forth.
But again, with the shutdowns, all we can do is connectthrough social media, newsletters, emails, answer questions. When I was onmedia about a month ago, the reporter asked me, "What kind of tips can wegive parents who have backyard pools to teach their own children?" And tome, that was a fascinating and scary question at the same time, becauseunfortunately, we've seen statistics of parents who don't know how to swimbefore their children. And so I'm a little worried about that. So as far asaccess, that would be my big concern in the haves and have nots. But wecontinue to connect with our families through the internet.
Awesome. Thanks, Eric. So moving over to Tamar. So Tamar,with the YMCA in Toronto, I mean, you're in one of the most densely populatedareas of Toronto. The YMCA typically caters to a very wide or very diversesocio-economic group of people. You have people who are very well to do, havefirst-time people into the country, and so on. So you also have a very broadrange of swimmers and people looking for lessons. So maybe you can speak to howyou address that diversity.
Yeah. So pre-pandemic, at all of our nine centers, we wereserving probably just over about 10,000 people through our different aquaticprograms. So when we shut down, it was trying to find a way to continueeducating those members. So the first thing we did is at our centers. We had avery successful junior lifeguard club program, a couple of competitiveprograms, our barracudas in our Wahoos at our Westend, and our Bramptonlocation.
So we started right away doing the virtual program withour Junior Lifeguard club and our competitive life saving program. Soimmediately, worked with the kids in the virtual program to build on the safeswimming and all that. So they were working on projects. And even one projectthey did was just hosting ... They made posters and sent them to the coaches topost up on the windows so members that would walk by the facilities were ableto take a look at that. As I mentioned earlier, our lifeguards on queues weremaking phone calls to all of our swim lesson families, just talking to them andletting them know about staying safe around water.
We have continued with our Junior Lifeguard club program.One of our head coaches, Natasha, is doing a great job with that. So the kidswill continue with doing a water safety and reaching out to our members againwithin a couple weeks. So we're just trying to make sure that the members knowthat we're here and we want to support them. And then on social media reachingout, and things like that too.
And then for last summer, we were fortunate enough to beable to redeploy a bunch of our aquatic staff to our camps. So they were ableto touch base with a lot of our families, and that happens too. So we had ourToronto Island camp. We had another camp in Peel that was kayak and canoe. Soeducating our families in that way when they were there about safe waterbehavior.
Great, that's fantastic. So I'm going to turn to Barb, andthen back over to Melissa. And I want to ask Barb to share a bit of thenational drowning report and more of the stats along the side there. And stillcome back to this idea because, what I'm looking to get from this panel is, oneway or another, have my idea either validated or my thesis validated ordebunked, that because of folks like you that are passionate about swimming,you bring this message, you drive it home every day for your clientele, to yourmembers, and so on, that we have a critical mass of people that have a goodunderstanding of water safety. But if we take that away, and enough time goesby without that education, we're going to be dipping into a black hole. We'regoing to be falling into a point where that's going to become a gap, and thenthat's where the risk occurs. So leading into the drowning report, so lookingat the stats, and just a quick overview, and then please dive into a Barb. Butmajority of swimming of drowning related accidents don't happen in supervisedsettings.
Yeah. And so I think one thing that's important to note, Imean, there's great work being done on the data. And we've got technology onour side with that. But what's important to note is the evolution of theCanadian drowning report and the drowning reports across the country. And thatevolution is that each territory and province has their own drowning report,because they have their own specific, unique data, even though there's generaltrend data.
But the evolution has turned it into an infographic, avery simple, standardized infographic. And that's key to those wordy documentsthat we used to have. So we need those techies, and those researchers, and thatsort of thing, and those papers. But we really need to go back to the tools,what's the toolbox, and the templates required for community activation. When Isay community, I'm also meeting a community of Canadian residents, whether it'sas immigrants or certain religious background. We have a lot of Mennonites andHutterite colonies.
So every community is unique. And so we need to resetourselves. I don't believe in a new normal, but I think we're going to have to resetand take the opportunity to move forward with a future vision in how we dothis. And I believe we have to do it differently, because we are, in a sense,going to be starting from scratch in a lot of areas.
So we talk learn to swim. But what we really know and whatwe mean based on the World Health Organization report is basic swim survivalskills. And so we have to have standardized messaging, standardizedinfographics, icons. If all of those who are passionate start working togetherbetter and sharing, then if I take my family to Arizona, the messaging isunique to the community. Still, the intent of the messaging needs to bestandardized.
And so we can talk about the data and the trend data. Andof course, our youth and child drowning is low. But every time it happens, it'stragic. And it tugs at our heartstrings. And we know that 99.9% is preventable.So we also need to refine and redefine our need to hang on to what aninstructor is.
And I heard Eric express some concerns that we need tounderstand that parents can teach. But we have to give them the tools and thebox to do that in. They need basic swim survival skills. But it needs to be ineither supervised settings, or have safe areas set up with life jackets inshallow water.
So by us hoarding the teaching just to organize thelessons, we need to shift that. So just like bathtub drownings are up, thereare lots of different things that are happening. I mean, who knows down theroad what suicide by drowning might be. There are going to be differentchallenges that are thrown at us.
So really, I think we have an opportunity to reset, collaborate,and standardize, and change the way we think because community activation andaccess will be so important. And it is. It's going to be the haves and havenots. We also depend on that education system and years ago when every childgot swimming lessons.
I still believe we need to work with our electedofficials. And that's one of our pathways. But I don't think we should throwall our eggs into that basket, which is the only pathway that we pursue forchildren and adults to access basic swim survival skills. So let's not have anew normal. Let's re-shift the old normal of how we think, and let's be betterat it together and letting go of those myths that we grew up on, and weretrained and certified on, and look into the future to the millennial generationand the Canadian resident demographic in our unique communities. And we have toreach out to them, and engage them, and have them help us deliver these essentialskills that we're going to have a considerable void based on the results ofCOVID and the pandemic.
I wanted to just, if you could just expand on somethingyou referenced. You mentioned, at one time, all Canadians got swimming lessons.Can you expand on that a little bit? I wasn't aware of that.
Yeah. It wasn't so much my boomer generation. But it wasmy children's generation, who are millennials and pre-millennial, where you hadswimming lessons in your educational curriculum in Alberta. And that waslessons. So at least in elementary school, you got exposed to lessons. With thecost of busing and liability and everything, then that turned into an aquaticactivity in the curriculum. And then it disappeared.
And so I don't believe we're going to have governmentsthat support going back to what was there. So okay, how do we work withgovernments so that they do you support still trying to achieve the results? Tohaving every grade three students or in elementary school at least, as early aspossible, be exposed to learning basic swim survival skills, how to put a lifejacket on, that sort of thing.
I'm going to give you a good example. In the NorthwestTerritories in Yellowknife, they have a beautiful beach and lake, within themunicipal borders. And they have a drowning. And there was a fatality inquiry,and they worked with us. And the immediate charge was the need to put alifeguard on that beach. Well, the town couldn't sustain it. They could barelysustain putting lifeguards in their public pool.
So we worked with them to wrap their head around putting alife jacket loaner station right on the beach and having beach attendants whodid not have to have bronze medallion and bronze cross. What they had to havewas aquatic emergency care & standard first-aid. And they had a safe swimarea supervised and roped off, and they became the water-smart advocates in thewhole city of Yellowknife
And that beach on a hot day in Yellowknife in theNorthwest Territories can have 400 people on it. But we gave them all the toolsand the standards of, "Okay, for every 400 square meters, we want at leastone beach attended, that sort of thing. Those locally employed, young adults& students did not have to takeyears and years and hundreds and hundreds of dollars of training to be able toprovide a safe environment, have life jackets free of charge and provide basicswim survival skills to a swim to survive program on the beach.
So that's in the Yellowknife, Northwest Territoriespeople. If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere. They're doing it globallyaround the world. And we have to loosen those ties that we have to ourtraditional thinking. And now's the opportunity to do it.
Fair enough. Thank you for clarifying that and greatanswer. So I want to go to Lisa and Melissa next. I'm going to start with Lisa.And just kind of build on, I guess for your purposes, Lisa, build on what Barbtalked about. But also try to answer a burning question that folks like Adamand Eric and people in businesses like that have. Why is swimming not anessential service? Why is learn to swim and drowning prevention and theservices related, why are they not essential?
Remind me again of that question as we get toward the end.I've been writing down some notes. I loved everything that Barb has said here.So I'm going to try to touch on a few different pieces because these were allpart of my speaking notes. So awesome, Barb. This is great.
So the first thing I want to point out is that I referredto the Canadian drowning prevention plan of the key target groups, if yourecall. We aimed for five ended up with eight, with supervised settings beingone of those. But I think it's important because it echoes what everyone issaying here,
There are key groups that really are at high risk for drowning:
- Children 1-4 years,
- New Canadians,especially those who've been in Canada for fewer than five years,
- New Canadians notablythose who've been here for fewer than three years
- Indigenous peoples -first nations and Metis peoples,
- Young adult males
In terms of the areas where drowning is mostly like to occur in Canada:
- Northern Canada,rural areas, cold water, we've looped those into one group because there'sa lot of activity there.
- Water transport-relateddrowning, be it commercial and recreational. We are looking atrecreational right now. But those also tie in with commercial boats becausewe know that there's more than one fatality when a commercial boat goesdown.
- Unintentional waterentries. And so those are falls in the water or people did not intend togo into the water at all.
So what are we going to do? Reaching out to these groups,trying to educate the public about what to look for, what to do, what toconsider in terms of safety is all very important.
I'm going to swing to survival swimming skills trainingbecause this is important. And we talked earlier about what we are missing orwhat impact the pandemic is having. Not all provinces rolled out a Learn toSwim Program through the years. But I'm a Gen-Xer. And so I grew up in thatsystem. And it continued on with the millennials after us, where we attendedswimming lessons in grades four, five and six. And so we'd go in and learnthose basic swim skills. Really important.
And as Barb mentioned, it started out as skillsacquisition training and was perceived as a recreational activity. Arecreational activity is something that it's nice to have but not necessary,and boom it went off the budget because of all these other overhead costs. Butit continues in some provinces.
So you look at the province of Ontario, you look at theprovince of Nova Scotia, you look at the province of Quebec. And so you've gotsurvival swimming skills training; and we know that survival swimming skillstraining is essential. Global data has shown us that. Research has proven ittime and time again.
And if not survival swim skills training, so the basics interms of how to reorient yourself from a fall into the water. So be it throughthrowing yourself into the water, or the roll into water, treading for acertain period of time and then doing a distance swim so that you learn thosebasic survival swimming skills is important.
Basic swim skills are absolutely needed. So one of thethings you're going to see come out and started in the eighth edition of theCanadian drowning prevention plan, which will be launched on or around May 4,we're aiming for May 4, is that all Canadians need to have basic swim skills.Need it, absolutely essential. And it has to be part where we're actuallyrecommended that it be part of the public health care system with no barriersand universal access. This is to be used as immunization for drowningprevention in Canada. So basic swim skills, absolutely essential for all groups.
So let's swing back to these swimming lessons in schools,or let's swing back to the survival swimming skills training that's takingplace. So that's through a program called Swim to Survive, a life-savingsociety program put out and still delivered in many schools, as I mentioned,Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, in particular.
Why is this still able to happen within these provinces?It's because three key components tend to come together to make it successful.
- Government fundingcontinued.
- We have communityparticipation and a willingness to participate in the program. So thecommunity's really driving this forward.
- And there's achampion, an ambassador, as could be a civic Foundation, or an NGO that'sreally working well.
And we've seen that when we look at these threecomponents, a tripod if you will, when all three of those legs are in place,this happens within the school systems. So what's happened because of COVID?We've lost two cohorts. We've lost the talent because when did they go in todo? How do the schools go into doing this program? After Christmas, after MarchBreak. So we've lost 2020, we've lost 2021. Now, we have missed two full schoolyears, two cohorts of kids have gone through.
Why is this important? Because just like vaccinationclinics for COVID, you can set up the clinics and wait for people to come. Butthe people who are at greatest risk are still working; they're still inworkplaces. So in order to immunize them, the best place to have the clinic isin the workplace. Take it to them. The same thing holds true for kids.
So we're going to have kids who can sign up and continueswimming lessons because it's something that they've grown up doing orsomething within their community or their neighborhood. But those at mostsignificant risk won't be signing up for swimming lessons; they need to take itas part of their participation within the school system. It needs to come tothem. And we've missed two whole years.
And it's not simply those two years. This impacts familiesbecause this is an introduction. So those at greatest need, we have for newCanadians in particular. Many have come from countries that wouldn't even have swimminglessons on the radar. And if you're coming to a new country, are you going toput swimming lessons and something that's considered to be a leisurely activityhigh on your radar? No, because you're looking at housing, you're looking atlearning a new language, you're looking at food, you're looking at work. Andall these other things take precedence over this.
But through the school systems, through a swim to survive theprogram, or a basic swim skills acquisition program delivered through theschools is certainly a way that we can do that. And so again, immunizationagainst drowning. And I'm purposely putting these two together, because ourmindsets have shifted over this last year plus, learning a great deal from thispandemic. And there's there should be a new normal coming as a result of this.Let's take what we've learned. Your big question. Why-
I guess, let me just add, because you provided a ton ofgreat information there. So with what's coming out in the following report,what is the likelihood that that is adopted by the ... Is this a federalinitiative or a provincial initiative?
We would like for this to roll out nationally. And sothere are ways of doing that. We're investigating ways of doing that. We arehaving conversations; the Public Health Agency of Canada does recognize thatnew Canadians are a high-risk population for many different things. And so whenyou're coming to a new country, there are new foods. So there's inactivity thatwill be on the rise because you're adjusting. There are all kinds of things toconsider from a health perspective.
I have other notes here. We know that many of the risksparallel social determinants of health. So it disproportionately affects, as Isaid, First Nations, Metis, new Canadians, elderly rural populations. We take apublic health approach with the Canadian drowning prevention plan and withinthe coalition itself, which is a unique way of looking at drowning. But it hasbeen driven by the World Health Organization.
And part of that, Jason, is that we also need to wrap ourheads. And this echoes something else that that Barb has said, which is essential.We need to look at drowning; we need to look at it from the perspective ofapplying a multilayered drowning prevention strategy. It's not just one player.It's all the players.
So if you look at it, and you'llsee a diagram coming out in the eighth edition, there are four puzzle pieces,but they're all interconnected. And there are questions, and of course, itbreaks it down a bit of bit within each of these quadrants. But the first iswhat can I do? Or what could you do as an individual? What can my community do?What can research do? What can government, that's big G, little G? What cangovernment do? And it all fits together in multiple pieces.
So sure, we can do the research, we can bring in the data.But we need delivery partners, and we need the communities to absorb that. Forexample, we'll take survival swimming implementation as part of it. Thecommunity needs to drive that, we need funding from the government, we needindividuals to participate. And we're not just talking children. We're talkingadults. Everyone needs to learn how to do this. We are a country with how manylakes, rivers, how many open water sources? We have access everywhere. And sowe really need to make this a priority.
That's a fantastic answer. I want to go to Melissa, I wantto give her a chance to add to the conversation here. Along the same lines,Melissa brings a different perspective from south of the border. But I'm surethere are commonalities here. And I will also put the same question to you. Howdoes swimming become an essential service or essential, a priority in Americanculture?
Well, like you mentioned many times, this is a globalproblem. It's not just us; it's not just you. This is something that the WorldHealth Organization has indicated that it's a third leading cause ofunintentional deaths worldwide. And that varies obviously from country tocountry. But overall, third, that's huge.
But data, I believe, is what's going to help us. It'susing that data to tell your story to those targeted demographics, get money,and pay attention to the problem. One example is New Zealand; when puttogether, they added up what it costs for non-fatal for either rescuing them,the care, respite care, or hospitalization, and then possibly search andrecovery for those fatal drowning. And they got a big price tag.
And then they said, "Hey! You know what? If we justadd some pools, it will be a lot cheaper, and we save a lot more lives. And sothat was a really cool eye-opener. So that's something we can all learn from,again, even further away from just south of the border.
But then it's really honing in on that messaging. We haveproblems with messaging as well. I mean, Water Safety USA started a few yearsago to try and get one standard message. And I think what we found out is thereisn't one standard message. I mean, we are driving one each year, just tryingto help the education, easy from a consumption perspective of families.
But that's why we lean on those layers of protection,exactly what you guys have been saying all along. And that's kind of a two-prongedapproach. It's one; we never know what layers save a life until it does. Andthen one layer transitions into the other. Can we start educating, say,kindergartners or elementary schoolers with a curriculum? Is that going to be alife-saving aspect? Or is it those swim lessons? Now we've gotten them intoswim lessons.
Well first, does somebody have an alarm on their home orthat barrier around their pool or body of water, which we can't with openwater, as we know. So that's the education component. Once they breach thatbarrier or there isn't one in place, now we rely on those swim lessons to comeinto effect. And heaven forbid if something were to go terribly wrong, now wewant that lifesaver to be there, somebody who knows CPR.
So it's just who's our message to, who is our targetdemographic. Just case and point is the data we have right now. We look at sixdata sets because the vetted stuff as Barb mentioned, will be two years atleast past the incident, the day of the incident. So that's helpful, and thatgets us those numbers that we need to tell, whether it's the drive the fundingmessaging or the attention messaging. But we're driving through the rearviewmirror.
So we work on first responder data. So our lifeguards ourfire, EMS, police to give us the incident reports to be able to say, "Thisyear alone, we have already lost this many people." So right now we'relooking at about 232 lives that have been lost. And that is through March 31.So that's not even to date. I have to pull from so many different data sources.
But again, to the point, 171 of those are adults. So drowningis a really big adult problem. But it pulls more in our heartstrings when it'sthe youth. And we already know that, again, another data set that's reallyimportant. And to use that to drive messages as the one to four age range, it'sthe number one cause, the absolute number one cause for a child.
So kind of to Eric's point of how do we help educate ongetting kids into lessons younger? Right there alone, once you're six or seven,thank goodness you've survived that long. But your chances of a drowningincident is going to happen between that one and four. So we need to get themin sooner, we need them to learn sooner.
Another data set was mentioned before, but of those 232,so far that we know about, 193 of those were males. So, where's the messaginggoing? Where's the targeting going? In a couple of our states, we did in the USget some lessons deemed as essential. And it was because we could use this datato make that point to say, "This is a big problem." And then ofcourse again, localized, be able to show that because COVID shut down somelessons, it caused this particular age group to have a higher rate of drowning.So we could tie those together.
And then again, it's using your partners and collaboratingfor that targeted marketing. I mean, we know it's adults that are inunsupervised areas that are drowning more for those more significant numbers.So we work with our local family foundation or a lot of our family foundationsto put up life-jacket loaner stations so that there are life jackets in those unsupervisedareas and to encourage that that behavior.
And then we also have like river rangers out there, wheresimilar to the program that Barb was talking about, or I'm sorry, it might havebeen Lisa talking about, that we use the community. These are just community-basedpeople. They didn't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars gettingcertifications. They have your basic first aid, maybe even a wilderness firstaid. But they're just standing at the launch sites for a kayaker saying,"Hey! I'm noticing you don't have a life jacket on."
Whether or not it's the law for that state in that area,for us, it's going to vary from state to state, unfortunately. But they'resaying, "You need to put a life jacket on. The rivers run high today.You're not an experienced kayaker." Whatever messaging they feel like theyneed to use for that time. They're just volunteers. They're don't havecertifications up to a certain point.
And then we engaged the community during this time too.One of our cities decided to do water safety parades. They got their aquaticspeople, got their fire trucks and police car, and did these mini parades wherethey started at a school and used their loudspeakers and tossed out watersafety information to the crowds during this time.
There are creative ways out there without necessarilyneeding funding for it, or there are organizations. Again, like at my localone, our local joint venture coalition of Arizona will give out grants. So thereare many grant-based organizations out there to tap into to get support forthese programs that are saving lives.
So yeah. I think COVID has given us the blessing of uslooking at things differently and change how we do things. And I think out ofthis, we've learned that some lessons and water safety education needs to bedetermined essentially everywhere. And I believe we've got now a little bit ofmomentum behind that and cases we can draw on and say, "Hey! This hashappened in California. This is how they did it. So let's track how theirnumbers go from that point forward and see if just making that one designationmade an impact." And I think it will.
Yeah, thank you very much for sharing. There was a lot ofinformation there. And it's, from the entire panel, the passion and everybody'scommitment to the cause becomes very, very evident. So I think that we got towrap this up. And I want to go before I get into what everybody else, a finalword from everybody.
I want to let Eric come and share some of the work he’sdone. Eric's a very, very big advocate. He's very active, similar in Toronto,similar to Adam in Montreal. He's a very big advocate on the news, on social,about getting the message that the service needs to be available for everybody,it needs to be essential, and so on so forth. So Eric, can you speak to us a bitof your work?
Yeah. I mean, I've been running a swim school for 28years. I was a teacher, I ran camps for many years. But I felt that teachingkids to swim was my mission in life, and training instructors to use specialtechniques and all of that stuff. So when COVID hit it, it shut it all down.And it was like a roller coaster-like we've all been on.
It needs to be up charged. And it seems selfish to saybecause I run a private business, "Adam runs a private business." Sothen I flip on my drowning prevention hat, and I sat through an inquiry at aninquest through the camping association of a four-year-old who drowned in apool that was supposed to be supervised by lifeguards. And all of it waspreventable. And we hear of all these preventable drownings.
To be on a panel like this, Jason, I thank you for thisbecause I would love to create a command table across North America where wehave 12 top people to make swimming lessons an essential service. And Melissa'spoint is really well taken. It's happened in California.
And I would say why wait for the data? Can we work on thisnow and not worry so much about when the drownings come in? I say we do it nowas a preventative move. And I would love to work with anybody willing to sit onour command table to do that.
Well, you certainly have the resources here at this paneldiscussion in the US and Canada to get that all initiated. So here's how we'regoing to end this off. And you can't repeat what the person before you said. Iwant one clear message about what you're going to leave your community, yourfamilies, whoever you interact with; what do you want to leave them with as adrowning prevention measure, something they need to be aware of? And we'regoing to start with Adam in Quebec because Quebec had a major issue withdrownings. So to Adam first, one thing.
One thing - Learn to swim as young as possible, and getyour kids in the pool as young as possible. Haven't learned to swim yet, get inthe pool as soon as possible.
Okay. Tamar, you're up.
Well, see I'm currently in Muskoka, because that's wheremy family and I are from. So I think it's you need to keep your eyes on thewater at all times. And it doesn't matter what the water is, whether it issupervised or not supervised. You are responsible for the people bring there.
Brilliant. Barb, let's go to you next.
The sharing of simple messages and tools so thatcommunities can be their own drowning prevention champions.
Brilliant. We're going to go to our American guest.
I really like Barb's. I'm going to go back to data. I'mgoing to say use the data to tell the story you need to tell to whoever thatgroup is, because you can get good targeted messaging and from whatever datayou need to tell to that specific community. So use the data.
And finally for Lisa.
Melissa took the line right out of my mouth. Notsurprising, is it?
You guys would really work very well together.
We would. We need to touch base after this, Melissa. I thoughtthis would be great. Okay, so here's mine. There are key policy and legislationopportunities for drowning prevention intervention. So evidence supports theneed for improved life jacket PFD wearing with a strong focus on wear for all.
Brilliant. And with the final word, I'm going to thank ourpanelists here for taking the time out of their day to join us & sharetheir information, their expertise, their opinions, most importantly, theirpassion. I think I still believe thatthis is something that the ability to swim, learn to swim, and take that forgranted. Without people like you guys offering the service, pushing theimportance to do things right in a certain way, the structured programs and soon, we would have a problem.
To the people watching, and to the people at home, we'veall been locked up for the last 12 months on and off. Summer is coming. Thewarm weather is coming. We're all anxious to get out, run to the summer pool,run to the pond, run to the lake. You got to do it safely. You got to do itwith awareness, and you got to look out For each other. So I thank all mypanelists here. Have a safe, water-safe summer. And we'll talk to you soon.