Ottawa

Public swims, classes cancelled due to lifeguard shortage

The City of Ottawa is cancelling some public swims, reducing capacity at others and is cancelling about 50 learn-to-swim classes due to a shortage of lifeguards at its indoor facilities.

Young people who had signed up to be lifeguards now pursuing other jobs instead, city says

Lifeguard in red watches swimmers in a pool.
The City of Ottawa has had to cancel and modify some swimming lessons and public swims due to a shortage of lifeguards. (Lydia Neufeld/Radio-Canada)

The City of Ottawa is cancelling some public swims, reducing capacity at others and is cancelling about 50 learn-to-swim classes due to a shortage of lifeguards at its indoor facilities.

Staff initially thought enough lifeguards had been hired for the season, but then a "significant number" of them resigned in the week and a half before the June 29 staffing shortage announcement, according to a memo to the mayor and council from the head of the recreation department.

"Despite the high enrolment in lifeguard certification courses, many lifeguards are seeking employment elsewhere, often in other fields," the June 29 memo reads.

Donna Woodman, the city's program manager of aquatic operations, said young people applying for multiple jobs often end up taking the one most related to their chosen fields.

Some facilities are fully staffed, she said, while others are dealing with some cancellations and changes. There is no impact to beaches or wading pools.

Raynald Hawkins — executive director of the Lifesaving Society, which works to prevent injuries and deaths associated with water, including drowning — said the organization realizes students are "spoiled for choice."

"As they became involved in the aquatic field, they found other jobs," he said.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who was a City of Ottawa lifeguard before being elected to council, told Radio-Canada there is a great need for labour across the city, "and the salary [of a lifeguard] is less competitive than it once was."

The city is asking anyone interested in joining the city's aquatics team to apply at ottawa.ca/recjobs. When more staff become available, supplemental public swim sessions will be scheduled, the city's memo reads.

With files from Radio-Canada

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