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New Canadian tweens more likely than their peers to be unable to swim: study

July 2, 2016

CBC News | New immigrants to Canada aged 11 to 14 years old are five times more likely to be unable to swim than their Canadian-born peers, according to a new study from a drowning prevention advocacy organization.

Tweens who were in Canada for fewer than five years were up to seven times more likely to be unable to swim, the Lifesaving Society-commissioned study also found.

“They come from countries where there isn’t a culture of learning to swim,” said Barbara Byers, public education director with the society.

“Many just have never had an opportunity at all. They may have lived in a land-locked country with very little water, or just in some cases [there were] no opportunities for women.”

study swimming

A study commissioned by the Lifesaving Society suggests that new Canadians aged 11-14 are at a greater risk of drowning. (Twitter/Lifesaving Society)

The study, conducted on behalf of the Lifesaving Society by Gadd Research and McCullough Associates, builds on another study the society commissioned in 2010 which found that new Canadian adults were four times more likely to be unable to swim than those than those born in Canada.

Parents not emphasizing water safety: study

The latest study also found that, despite many new Canadian tweens being unable to swim, 93 per cent said they participate in activities in or around water.

“About half of them said their parents are nervous about them being near or on water,” Byers said.

However, she said that nearly half the tweens also said their parents don’t think learning to swim is important, or don’t talk to them about water safety.

“I think for them it’s probably ignorance, lack of understanding, or many of them just feel they just haven’t got there yet. Certainly new immigrants if they’ve only been here five years or so, the priority is getting jobs, getting their kids in school, finding a place to live,” she said.

“But what many don’t realize is [swimming is] so popular, it’s so common here. You might say, ‘We’re not a swimming family.’ But when you’re pre-teen becomes 14 or 15, they’re going to do things with their friends without their parents even knowing about it, so it’s so important in Canada to know how to swim, to have basic swimming survival skills.”

Out of those who could swim, 73 per cent said they learned how to do so in Canada.

Byers said learning how to swim is crucial at a younger age, but also said that it is never too late for anyone at any age to learn — as many regions offer adult-only or one-on-one classes.

“It’s important to learn these skills when you’re younger because you really retain these skills the rest of your life. Once you know, you know.”

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