Lifejacket Law Needed to Save Lives, Groups Say

July 27, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

A boat sailing at Bluffer's Park in Scarborough. A new plan calls for all boaters on crafts under six metres to wear a lifejacket. (Yue Pang/The Epoch Times)
A boat sailing at Bluffer's Park in Scarborough. A new plan calls for all boaters on crafts under six metres to wear a lifejacket. (Yue Pang/The Epoch Times)
Lifejackets have been a sorely missed protection for the majority of drowned Ontarians, a situation key groups hope to change.

The Ontario Provincial Police, Lifesaving Society, and the Ontario coroner’s office are all calling on Transport Canada to regulate boaters to wear lifejackets on boats less than six metres long.

A Canadian Red Cross report on boating incidents covering 16 years (1991?2006) shows the majority of boating deaths are men over 15 with alcohol consumption being a key contributor. Over 50 percent of personal watercraft deaths involved alcohol.

Of this summer’s boating fatalities, all 12 victims did not wear a lifejacket. Last year, 22 of the 23 victims were not wearing a life jacket, according to the Lifesaving Society.

In Canada, Ontario has the highest number of drowning deaths, but when analyzed per capita, the figure is not as large as Nunavut’s. A report on drowning deaths between 2005?2007 shows that Ontario had 172 deaths, equivalent to 1.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, Nunavut had 6 deaths, equivalent to 17.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

The most common drowning settings are lakes and ponds (35 percent), with rivers/streams/creeks (24 percent), oceans (10 percent), bathtubs (10 percent), and private pools (7 percent). In July and August, drowning incidents are at its peak with 34 percent occurring in these two months, according to Life Saving Society’s 2005?2007 statistics.

Studies by The Lifesaving Society show kids under 5 and new Canadians—those living in Canada fewer than five years—have higher risk of drowning compared to those living in Canada over five years, because “they are four times more likely to be unable to swim than those born in Canada,” notes the Lifesaving Society’s news release.

Water safety education is extremely important for those unpredicted moments in water, note groups like the Lifesaving Society.

Harbord CI, Downsview SS, Keele Public School, and R.H. King Academy now all host free “Swim to Survive” summer programs implemented by the society.

On Tuesday, Regna Bersenas, 67, died during a swim along an island near Georgian Bay.

A man who saw her swimming abnormally offered her a lifejacket, but she refused. He left, and when he later came back to check, he found her floating unresponsively. Bersenas died later that night.

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