Manitoba has expanded its life-jacket loaner program to select provincial parks in an effort to help prevent drowning, Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affairs Minister Jim Rondeau said today.
"It only takes a second for a great day on the water to turn tragic," Rondeau said. "We urge parents and guardians to keep small children within arm's reach at all times, and now, even if you forget a life-jacket, you can borrow one for the day."
The expanded program -- it’s been in place in select locations for about seven years -- comes during National Drowning Prevention Week from July 20 to 27. The initiative is sponsored by the Lifesaving Society of Canada.
There were 20 drownings in Manitoba in 2011 and 14 last year.
Rondeau said the expansion of the 'Kids Don't Float' life-jacket loaner program will be set up in partnership with the Manitoba Coalition for Safer Waters at beaches in provincial parks where no life guards are on duty.
The first station is at the beach in Campers Cove boat launch at Clearwater Provincial Park. Other stations will be added later this year at St. Malo, Moose Lake, Grass River, Paint Lake, Stephenfield, Manipogo and Rainbow Beach provincial parks.
"The simplicity of increasing personal safety around water is as easy as putting on a life-jacket, but it only works if you wear it," said Carl Shier, chairperson, Manitoba Coalition for Safer Waters. "Eighty per cent of boating-related drowning victims in Canada were not wearing a life-jacket."
"Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death for Canadians, so it's important that everyone wears a life-jacket while enjoying activities in or on the water," said Shawn Feely, provincial director, Red Cross, Manitoba. "We urge parents to understand the risks to children and enroll themselves and their children in swimming and water-safety training."