Manitoba

Manitoba's youngest children see highest drowning rate in country

Manitoba has the highest rate of drowning deaths in Canada for children under age five, a report released Tuesday says.

Drowning rate per 100,000 is 3.8 for children under 5 — more than 3 times national figure of 1.1

In nearly all drownings of children under 5 in the study, absent or distracted supervision and being alone or only in the company of other minors was partly to blame. (Don Marce / CBC)

Manitoba has the highest rate of drowning deaths in Canada for children under age five, a report released Tuesday says.

The province's drowning rate per 100,000 stands at 3.8 for children less than five years old — more than three times the national figure of 1.1, says the report by the Manitoba branch of the Lifesaving Society.

"We need to make sure that parents are aware that they need to supervise their kids," said Kevin Tordiffe, operations manager of the Lifesaving Society Canada's Manitoba branch. "Keep them within arm's reach when they're anywhere near the water."

The drowning prevention charity's analysis is based on five years of data ending in 2014, which is the most recent data available from the province's office of the chief medical examiner.

Young kids most likely to drown

Children under five are also the most likely to drown in the province. In nearly all cases, absent or distracted supervision and being alone or only in the company of other minors was partly to blame.

Those age 20-24 had the second-highest drowning rate, with 3.4 drownings per 100,000 people in that group. That rate is nearly double the national average.

Manitoba saw a spike of 40 drownings in 2011, followed by three years when the numbers dropped to about half of that. 

Manitoba's youngest children see highest drowning rate in country

4 years ago
2:03
Manitoba has the highest rate of drowning deaths in Canada for children under age five, a report released Tuesday says. 2:03

More recent figures gleaned from media and online reports put the 2015 drowning tally at eight, and the 2016 number is 14, but the non-profit group said official figures from the medical examiner aren't yet available. 

Last summer, the Lifesaving Society called on the provincial government to launch an inquest after three people — a man and two children — drowned in two separate incidents on public beaches.

Overall, the province's drowning rate has remained steady over the past decade, though it's still higher than the national average. 

'Drowning can happen anytime'

The majority of drownings nationwide happen in rivers and lakes, with just three per cent occurring in pools with lifeguards, Tordiffe said. 

In Manitoba, 52 per cent of drowning deaths in the survey happened in June and July.

Tordiffe said more people from rural communities tend to die in the water because swimming pools and instruction are more scarce outside of bigger cities such as Winnipeg, Brandon and Steinbach.

More than 10 per cent of fatal drownings in Manitoba between 2010-14 happened when people in vehicles crashed into water-filled ditches and died, according to the survey. Tordiffe said that figure illustrates how important it is to always be prepared.

"We need to think ... beyond just our swimming, our boating activities, our driving risks," he said. "Drowning can happen anytime, anywhere just about.

"Evaluate what risks you face every day when you're going out there and take the necessary steps when you're out there: watch your kids, wear a life-jacket when you're boating, don't consume alcohol when you're participating in swimming or boating activities, and be smart about what you have as a skill set when you are in or around water."

With files from Isaac Wurmann and Radio Canada's Thibault Jourdan

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