Lifeguards running dry in National Capital Region

Larger municipalities are barely able to meet their needs, while smaller towns may have to keep some facilities closed due to lack of lifeguards.

Ottawa employs roughly 1,100 lifeguards

Camping Cantley has had to close their second pool because they do not have a lifeguard to oversee it. (Carla Oliveira/Radio-Canada)

Getting enough lifeguards into pools this summer has not been easy in the National Capital Region, leading some facilities to close them.

Larger municipalities — including Ottawa and Gatineau, Que. — are barely able to meet their needs, while smaller towns may have to keep some facilities closed due to the lack of lifeguards.

In Cantley, Que. — about 15 km north of Gatineau — the campground Camping Cantley has had to shut the gates on one of its two pools because they have no lifeguard to oversee the area, according to owner Lise Lefebvre.

"We don't have [another] lifeguard able to come everyday," Lefebvre said in French.

With warmer weather and extended pool hours, lifeguards aren't having any trouble finding work, but it is putting a strain on recruitment, according to Lifesaving Society general manager Raynald Hawkins.

"When you're in full employment ... it becomes difficult to recruit lifeguards," Hawkins said in French.

Larger cities on the cusp

The City of Ottawa, which employs 1,100 lifeguards during the summer, has just enough to meet their needs, but that could change.

"A lack of last-minute staff can arise, for example because of an illness, which can result in the cancellation of a specific program," Dan Brisebois, the city's head of aquatic services, said in an email in French.

Many students aren't looking for full-time work, he added.

Gatineau is facing a similar problem with recruitment. Martin Goulet, the city's head of aquatic services, said they had to hire 20 new staff to fill all their positions.

"This year, in particular, we had difficulty filling the 771 shifts offered by the City of Gatineau during the summer," Goulet said in French.

Both cities say they are looking to hire more lifeguards, but are finding them hard to come by. 

With files from Carla Oliveira and Radio-Canada