Canadians underestimate measures needed to prevent child drowning, Red Cross research suggests

Topics: National, Water Safety
June 06, 2013

(Ottawa) – Although child drowning rates are decreasing, it remains the second leading cause of preventable death for children younger than 10. Recent Red Cross research shows that Canadian parents need to develop a better understanding of how to safeguard children in, on and around the water. With June 1 to 8 being Water Safety Week, the Red Cross is calling on all Canadians to educate themselves and their children about the risk of drowning.

"Children can drown quickly and quietly, and often in situations where they were not expected to enter the water," says Rick Caissie, national director for first aid, swimming and water safety at the Canadian Red Cross. "Only one-third of children and youth who drown in Canada were taking part in aquatic activities that parents typically see as risky, like swimming or wading. One-third of children drown in situations where they enter the water unexpectedly, like by falling from a dock or entering the water without their caregiver’s knowledge."

Yet Ipsos Reid polling conducted on behalf of the Red Cross shows that Canadian parents underestimate children’s risk of drowning in shallow water. Ninety-eight per cent of parents with children younger than four say that water depth influences their level of supervision. However, data shows that 40 per cent of children drown in water less than one metre deep, and 90 per cent of children who drown in shallow water are not with a supervising adult.

Fifteen per cent of child drownings in Canada happen in backyard pools, but Canadian parents also underestimate the importance of backyard pool safety measures. Only half of parents believe four-sided fencing is an important measure to prevent drowning. In 70 per cent of child drownings in backyard pools, the pool has no fence, or has a fence that does not adhere to safety bylaws.

"Sixty per cent of child drownings occur between June and August," adds Caissie. "With summer around the corner, we urge parents to understand the risks to children not just when they are in the water, but also when they are on it or near it."

The Red Cross has been helping to keep Canadians safe in, on and around water since 1946. For more information about Canadian Red Cross swimming and water safety programs, or for safety tips, visit
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