Coroner recommends water-safety education for new Canadians, tourists after Saskatoon drowning

Published: March 22, 2013


Kits Beach

A photograph of Kits Beach in Vancouver. According to B.C. coroner Barb McLintock, statistics from 2006 to 2010 show that 14.6 per cent of B.C. drownings were of people who lived outside of the province — with the majority also happening during the summer. Les Bazso/PNG

Better water safety programs for new immigrants and tourists are needed across the country.

After 27-year-old new immigrant from Pakistan, Muhammad Naqash Ali, drowned in a Saskatoon pool in June 2012, a Saskatchewan coroner released a report Thursday asking for water safety programs for new Canadians.

“This tragic death highlights the need for water safety programs targeting new Canadians at the local, provincial and national level,” coroner Myrna Briggs wrote in her report.

According to British Columbia coroner Barb McLintock, “some of the issues would be the same” here.

“We’ve seen a similar problem with tourists,” she told Vancouver Desi. “There’s a problem of people who come here from elsewhere that are not accustomed to B.C. waters.”

According to McLintock, statistics were gathered from 2006 to 2010 showing that 14.6 per cent of B.C. drownings were of people who lived outside of the province — the majority also happened in the Interior and over the summer months.

According to executive director of the Lifesaving Society B.C. and Yukon branch, Dale Miller, new immigrants are four times less likely to be able to swim.

“Unfortunately it’s just not always part of their culture as it is here,” said Miller. “Over the last several years we have seen more new Canadians that are drowning.”

He referenced an incident last year when a North Vancouver foreign exchange student drowned, so the Lifesaving Society worked with some of the exchange schools.

“We had sent quite a bit of information to a lot of the exchange schools and a lot of them did follow up on it and did some orientation with their students,” he said.

The coroner’s office has spent its time working with municipalities and asking parks departments and authorities to put out more pictoral signs identifying dangers.

“We’ve worked on the need for better water safety signage and instruction for tourists from out of province and out of country, specifically those who don’t speak English well,” said McLintock.

Briggs’ report into the Saskatchewan death found Ali’s cause of death to be accidental drowning.

Ali was among a group of classmates who went to a Saskatoon pool for its free evening swimming. He had immigrated to Canada from Pakistan in May 2011 and was taking English classes. He was an “inexperienced swimmer,” the report said.

Around 9:15 p.m. on June 8, 2012, a lifeguard scanned the bottom of the pool and saw Ali lying on his back at the bottom.

There were five fully qualified lifeguards on duty at the time, the report said, and they were following protocol regarding their rotations and routine scans.

Briggs recommended the City of Saskatoon, the Lifesaving Society Saskatchewan Branch and Red Cross Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) “identify and develop partnerships and strategies that recognize the unique cultural variations in our communities in order to encourage and enhance access and participation in water safety and education programs.”

— with a file from Postmedia News

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