Manitoba 'swim to survive' program limited to north
Posted: Jul 6, 2012 6:16 AM CT
Last Updated: Jul 6, 2012 7:57 AM CT
A program that has taught children in northern Manitoba to survive a fall into deep water won't be coming to schools in the southern part of the province.
The Swim to Survive program, started by the Lifesaving Society, teaches children and youth skills such as treading water, protecting their airways while in the water, and swimming to the nearest point of safety.
"This isn't swimming lessons. This is survival skills for sudden immersion into water," Carl Shier, head of the society's Manitoba branch, told CBC News.
The Manitoba government currently provides funding for Swim to Survive to be offered in up to 40 northern Manitoba reserves that have no swimming pools.
"We're drown-proofing about 1,000 young children every year in those remote communities," he said.
Shier said the society has been lobbying the Healthy Living Department to implement Swim to Survive across Manitoba, not just in the north.
He said expanding the program to the rest of the province could be done through schools, and at total a cost of $100,000 to $150,000 — less than what it costs to run it in the north.
A provincial government official told CBC News that it does fund a variety of water safety initiatives through the Manitoba Coalition for Safer Waters, including:
- One-time community grants of up to $2,500 to help communities identify water hazards and develop water safety skills.
- A program that loans lifejackets and personal floatation devices to people in waterfront northern and remote communities.
- A public awareness campaign that promotes water safety and drowning prevention measures.
Meanwhile, the Quebec government announced this week that it will begin offering the Swim to Survive program to Grade 3 students in that province.
The Quebec program will initially be offered to children on a voluntary basis, but could potentially become mandatory.
Shier applauded the Quebec government's move, adding that drowning is the second leading cause of death among children.
On average, about 20 people — including at least one child — drowns in Manitoba each year, according to the society.
"We are a province that has that 100,000 lakes, and we tout it to everybody. But we have to be safe around water," Shier said.
"I always look at water as no different than electricity. You appreciate what you have but you have to respect it. There's a danger to it."With files from the CBC's Leslie McLaren
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