Recent drownings renew calls for newcomer swimming classes, more education

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WATCH: “When I hear about a drowning incident that has occurred where there is a death that has happened, it's always a tragedy. Christopher Love of the Manitoba Lifesaving Society says more programs are needed – Jul 9, 2018

The recent drowning deaths of two newcomers to Manitoba has renewed calls for more education and programming when it comes to water safety.

The bodies of Pawan Preet Brar, 20, and Arwinder Brar, 19, were pulled from Lake of the Woods Friday after the Ontario Provincial Police received a distress call.

“It’s the worst part of my job,” Christopher Love with the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba said. “When I hear about a drowning incident that has occurred where there is a death that has happened, it’s always a tragedy.”

READ MORE: Family remembering two ‘great’ young men who drowned in Lake of the Woods

According to family, one of the young men had fallen into the water and the other jumped in to try to help with rescue him.

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Both men had immigrated to Canada within the past few years and had little experience with lakes and bodies of water.

The Lifesaving Society of Manitoba currently only offers an in-class program to help newcomers and immigrants understand water safety.

“We go out every spring, in May and June, and do classroom presentations to ESL language classes,” Love said.

“We provide them with basic water safety education, what is drowning, what’s the basic drowning risk in Canada, what are some important things to know in terms of learning to swim, watching their kids, and how to help out somebody if they do see somebody in trouble.”

However, right now they are only able to offer those courses in a classroom setting.

RELATED: ‘Be prepared’: Lifesaving Society urging Manitobans to be water-wise

Recently, the society has started running radio-based ad campaigns in more than a dozen different languages in an attempt to bring more awareness to the issue of drowning.

“I believe it’s 13 that we have running in different locales around the province for different language groups,” Love said. “Again, it’s all around the effort to try to get water safety out to as wide an audience as possible.”

LISTEN: People around Manitoba will hear life-saving messages this summer, including these

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Water safety message in Tagalog (Filipino)

According to the society, based on per capita numbers, Manitoba is the child drowning capital of Canada.

“One of the biggest things we hear time and time again (from newcomer parents) is that they didn’t realize how much of a problem it is here in Canada,” Love said. “Also, some of them are very surprised to learn that there are adult swim lessons at pools around the province.”

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A 2016 report by the Lifesaving Society of Canada showed new Canadians age 11 to 14 are five times more likely to not know how to swim compared with their Canadian-born counterparts.

Currently, Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services is the only organization that offers a multi-week, in water course to help newcomers learn to swim.

The 10-week course was developed and launched in January 2017 after a particularly devastating summer for newcomer deaths.

READ MORE: Friends identify 2 children who drowned at Grand Beach

In August 2016, David Medina, 12, and Jhonalyn Javier, 11, drowned at Grand Beach. Both children had recently moved to Manitoba from the Philippines.

Just weeks later, Jean-Baptiste Ajua, a 22-yaer-old man originally from Rwanda, drowned at Birds Hill Beach.

What do you do if someone is drowning?

According to the Lifesaving Society people should never jump in try to save someone who is in distress unless they have specifically taken a water rescue course.

“Someone who is drowning, they are very, very panicked,” Love said. “They are not thinking rationally. Their basic instincts take over and they are going to grab anything that they perceive as floating and that can be another person.”

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The first thing people should do is try to talk to them, and calm them down.

“Call to them to try to flip on their back, try to get them to float in place so they can catch their breath, and then they might be able to save themselves,” he said.

A life preserver. (Submitted)
A life preserver. (Submitted). Submitted

If that doesn’t work, the next step is to throw them something that floats.

“Anything that will float. That could be a life-jacket, that could be a cooler or something you’ve brought with you to the beach,” he said.

The third point the society recommends, and the most dangerous, is trying to physically get something out to them.

“Physically getting something out to them, not your arm, ’cause they could pull you in,” Love said. “It could be a rope, a tree branch, a paddle, a life-jacket. I’m holding onto one end, they are holding onto the other, and it gives them assistance and I can pull them back to shore or let go if they are pulling me in with them.”


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