torstar news service


Take a good look around before letting your child in the water, our columnist writes.

Although the majority of Canadians love to be around water in the summer, unfortunately it takes tragic events to remind us that water safety can never be taken for granted. And summer drownings, especially when children are the victims, are poignant because they usually occur during an outing that was meant for family fun or normal childhood play.

These terrible accidents provide lessons for us all.

According to the Canadian Lifesaving Society, more than 400 Canadians die each year in water incidents. Of them, about two-thirds accidentally slip or fall in to water.

Last week, two young boys were in horrific water accidents. In one, eight-year-old Simba Jowa, drowned in Ontario; in the other, seven-year-old Alexis Auclair, had both of his lower legs amputated in Quebec.

Short of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it appears nothing could have been done to stop these incidents from happening.

But how can we, both as parents and citizens, ensure greater water safety for our children? In Simba’s case, he and some cousins were playing by the Etobicoke Creek. On a regular day, the creek is nothing but a shallow brown current that looks as though even a five-year-old could step through without incident. But on the day Simba died, the creek was rushing and swollen from the deluge of rain the area had received.

The neighbourhood is discussing putting up a fence to keep children and animals out of harm’s way. It’s too late for Simba, but it’s not too late for that municipality, and others with similar situations, to set up an alert system.

The Quebec accident was a freak occurrence with severe repercussions for the little boy. But no one could have prevented it. According to a campground employee, the plastic protective cap, which covers the drain pipe into which little Alexis got sucked, was in place Sunday evening. How it came off between then and the accident is unclear.

So what can we do now? We teach our children how to swim, we teach them basic water safety and the buddy system, and we teach them a healthy fear and respect of the water. But how do we save them from future accidents?

We can only try to prevent them from happening — by putting up fences around dangerous natural waterways, and by implementing proper safety features and precautions in public swimming locales, whether they’re water parks, swimming pools, or basic splash pads.

It may be swelteringly hot outside, and a dip in the water is exactly what will cool you down, but safety is more important. Before letting your child go in or near any body of water, take a good look around. Are you satisfied with the standard of safety and the level of supervision you or someone else is able to provide?

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