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New Canadians at higher risk of drowning Add to ...

New Canadians, especially those who have been living in Canada for less than five years, are at a higher risk of drowning when swimming or boating, a new study suggests.

Commissioned by the Lifesaving Society, the study found that 31 per cent of new Canadians are nervous around water, and half of new Canadian parents are worried their children may drown.

Yet 92 per cent of new Canadians surveyed said they believe “learning to swim is a necessary life skill.” Thirty-one per cent also planned to participate in summer boating activities.

Researchers assessed the responses of 1,032 Canadian residents, born in and outside Canada. The new Canadians surveyed were from the Chinese, South Asian and Southeast Asian communities.

“Many times in their own country in China, Pakistan and India, water safety as a recreational activity just is not very common,” said Ms. Byers. “Most people didn’t learn to swim or have the opportunities to do so in their own countries.”

Ms. Byers emphasized the importance of providing information in different languages. Last year, the Lifesaving Society partnered with the RBC Foundation to translate information about Swim to Survive, a program that provides the basics on how to tread water and swim 50 metres, into 26 languages including Arabic, Chinese and Hindi.

While the YMCA Calgary does not offer English-as-a-second-language swimming instruction, it tries to accommodate the different cultural groups that use its facilities, said spokesperson Nadina Kaminer.

“If our instructors can speak another language and they’re able to – wonderful. But we don’t have classes specific in other languages to teach swimming,” she said.

Ms. Kaminer added that language is not essential to learn how to swim.

“As with most physical activity, you don’t necessarily need language. Language is a bonus,” she said. “You really can show and demonstrate to people what needs to be done.”

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