Line in the sand
Most provincial park beaches in Manitoba have some form of swim safety measures, typically a combination of signs, buoys, risk and safety plans. Three parks — Birds Hill, Winnipeg Beach and Grand Beach — have safety officers who handled education, awareness and emergency response. There have been two inquests, an inquiry and many department reviews since 1989. Here are just a few of the incidents that have shaped beach safety across Manitoba:
Edralyn Garon drowned on July 29, 1989 while swimming with her family at a designated area on Crescent Beach at West Hawk Lake. Although the area was designated, the beach safety patrol officers were not on duty at the time Garon drowned. The inquest explored the public’s perception about what the role of the government was with respect to safety. As a result of the inquest, the government refocused its efforts on education and public awareness. Also, all beaches with the exception of Grand Beach were clearly marked as unsupervised.
Seven people drowned on beaches between Matlock and Gimli on Lake Winnipeg during summer 1995. The Chief Medical Examiner held a public hearing, as well as a meeting of local officials that winter. His report reaffirmed that safety requires action by all. In other words, safety programs and information must be offered, but people are also responsible for seeking it out. In 1996, Winnipeg Beach became a staffed beach, as did Birds Hill in 1998, meaning there were officials on site who could offer first aid, CPR and other emergency responses. At this time, the province also created a provincial advisory group now known as the Manitoba Coalition for Safer Waters, dedicated to lowering drowning rates.
This inquest was called after two young children new to Canada drowned at different times at Birds Hill Provincial Park during the summer of 2000, both as a result of “inadequate supervision.” The province took a number of actions in response. Notably, they increased Birds Hill staffing by 400 per cent and gave staff radios in order to communicated with one another at a distance. Across the province, assessments of all 85 parks were conducted to look at possible hazards on the beach. As a result, buoy lines were either introduced or “enhanced to Transport Canada standards” in all parks.
— source: beach safety program review 2016