Monday, July 18, 2005

Government should pay for swimming lessons

Carolyn Bennett is calling for swimming lessons to be part of school curiculum.

Swimming lessons should become part of every child's education, says the federal minister of state responsible for public health.

Carolyn Bennett is calling for swim lessons to be part of the school curriculum and for the federal government to help fund the initiative.

"In this country that is covered in swater, it seems like it should be like reading and writing," Bennett said.

She says every child should know what to do when they fall into the water.

Barbara Underill, the former world figure skating champion, lost a daughter in a backyard pool accident 12 years ago.

"It's really exciting to see people are listening," she said.

"People are taking notice, people are understanding that swimming is a life skill that that all our children should have."

In the most recent statistics, drowning deaths in Ontario were up from record lows in the 1990s, according to the Lifesaving Society, an organization that certifies lifeguards and analyzes drowning deaths to promote safety.

There were 144 drownings and other preventable water-related deaths in Ontario during 2001 -- the latest year for which there are statistics. That is up by eight per cent from the previous year's all-time low of 133 deaths in 2000.

Nationally, there were 431 water-related fatalities in Canada during 2001, down by 9 per cent from 2000, and down 15 per cent from the past five-year average (1997-2001).

I don't dispute that every child should know how to swim at least well enough to make it to shore should they fall into the water. That said, I don't know that making it part of the curriculum is either feasible or necessary for the government. Those statistics also leave questions unanswered, such as, how many of those children who drowned were unable to swim? Many drownings occur in which the victim is at least a competent swimmer to whom having swimming as part of the curriculum wouldn't have helped at all.