Learn to stay afloat

Learn to stay afloat

Drownings are making headlines again this summer.

Posted at 5:00 am


The census compiled by the Quebec Lifesaving Society reports 39 “unofficial” drownings since the beginning of the year — the cause of death has not always been confirmed by a coroner.

We are pleased that this number has decreased compared to the same date last year (48 drowned). It can also be pointed out that the circumstances of some of these drowning victims gave the victims little chance, even if they could swim well.

But some of the events that have taken place since the beginning of summer are heartbreaking.

A 14-year-old girl who drowns at a water park. A 21-year-old man was found dead in a municipal swimming pool. Another in a lake in Montérégie. Other people who have been swept away by the current after falling or swimming. According to relatives, these victims could not swim or violated basic safety rules. deaths could have been avoided.

In a country with lakes and rivers, underground and above-ground swimming pools, knowing how to navigate the water is essential. We’re not talking about mastering the art of butterfly style. But we are not talking about bathing “in the hollow step” either, by jumping into the bottom of the water. We’re talking about being able to swim to survive.

What would happen to you if you fell into the water without your feet on the ground and had to swim several meters to a safe place? Could you do it to save your life?

This is not the case for many children. And it’s not just due to a lack of parental awareness, as our colleague Mayssa Ferah recently reported when she met Anjou residents complaining about the difficult access children’s swimming lessons are having.

In an ideal world, the school physical education program would incorporate swimming lessons for all elementary and secondary school students. Or at least there would be large enough indoor pools and lifeguards for all children to learn the basics of the sport.

We could certainly make it a societal goal, since swimming fills both a civil security need and a physical activity need.

But while we vacillate over the millions of dollars it costs to build and maintain swimming pools, there will be other drownings…

Faced with the difficulty of providing swimming lessons for all children, the Lifesaving Society offers a more pragmatic solution: the Swim to Survive program.

It is offered for students from the 3rd year of primary school (8-9 years) and consists of three units of one hour each in which students learn the basics of survival swimming: finding your way after falling into deep water, swimming in place minute, then move 50 meters to safety.

In 2019, the Ministry of Education set itself the goal of reaching more than 100,000 children with this program in four years. About 20,000 youth in grades 3 and 4 participated in the program the year before the pandemic — a time when the program was suspended. With the restart last September, 15,134 children (out of 185,000 students in the 3rd and 4th grades) were able to take part.

It’s good. But it’s still not enough.

Schools should be further encouraged to devote time to this activity. Quebec has also released funds to pay for hiring monitors and lifeguards, renting swimming pools and transporting students on the school bus.

But the pressure also applies to the rest of society, not just school leaders.

For example, in Drummondville, it is the municipal organization responsible for managing water facilities that coordinates the program offered to all 3rd grade elementary school students in that area (private and public schools, English and French).

The lack of swimming pools is a problem in many areas, but the Lifesaving Society emphasizes that it doesn’t take an Olympic-size pool to teach children the basics of survival swimming. And there are small swimming pools in hotels, in private sports centers, in condominiums… The owners of these establishments must also be encouraged to welcome children to this program.

Children are already learning many survival tricks to save themselves: dial 911, cross the street, escape a fire… This includes teaching them to stay afloat.