Compared to data over the past ten years in Manitoba, the last two years for water-related fatalities have shown an increase compared to the long-term average.
The long-term average is 21 to 22 deaths, while 2016 saw 31 fatalities, and 2017 had 25. Dr. Christopher Love, Water Smart Coordinator at Lifesaving Society Manitoba, says the hope is as more data becomes available, the numbers will go back down but current numbers show the significance education holds in water safety.
Each year, the Lifesaving Society has a dedicated week to improve awareness of drownings and provide safety information across Canada, and this year, National Drowning Prevention Week falls ran July 19-25.
With the potential trend of drownings increasing in the province, Dr. Love says several factors can help reduce the risks.
"If people think ahead before they or their children go out around water, a little preparation is incredibly essential to prevent incidents from occurring. Taking perhaps the two to three minutes on the dock to make sure you and everyone else in your watercraft have their lifejacket secured correctly, could save multiple lives if something terrible were to happen."
Wearing a life jacket in appropriate circumstances, including being in a watercraft, staying on the shore or dock while fishing is an essential step in saving lives, says Dr. Love. However, other risk factors include consuming drugs and alcohol around water bodies and going out alone.
The 2020 Manitoba Drowning Report is also available and provides data for the five years between 2013 and 2017, and has many relevant statistics.
"We continue to see approximately 80 percent of all drowning fatalities are male. They tend to have more risk-taking behaviours, which exposes them to more chances to be in dangerous situations," says Dr. Love. "That's not to say women should be complacent, and everyone needs to be aware of water safety."
When looking at death rates per 100,000, Manitoba remains the child drowning capital of Canada for the under-five age group. The drowning death rate for that age group in Manitoba is 3.4 per 100,000, with the annual death rate Canada-wide 1.0 or 1.1 per 100,000.
"We're more than triple the national average. This is not something we should be proud of, and it's something we should be concerned about. That goes back to needing that direct access to children in that age group with the supervision of caregivers and being within arms reach."
Dr. Love hopes people will take a moment to think before they go out on or around the water and have conversations with each other to help prevent drownings.