By Laura Keil
This week’s publication date – June 8th – marks exactly 13 years since our first edition of the Goat in 2010. Over the past 13 years, I’ve reported about a number of swift water rescues and swift water deaths, some with locals and some with tourists. This latest close-call in the Fraser is another reminder to me why it’s so important that water safety principles become commonplace.

Swimming lessons were one of the casualties of COVID-19 in Valemount. Prior to the pandemic, the Best Western hotel allowed local groups to use the pool for lessons, but since that time, residents have not been given access outside of school hours for school-age kids to attend lessons (hosting lessons during school hours isn’t very feasible). In McBride there are no indoor pools or public pools. Of course most kids have the remarkable ability to enjoy cold water even when it’s not hot out, so in the summertime they can swim outdoors. With proper supervision, this is not a bad way to learn. In fact, teaching kids safety around multiple bodies of water can make them more resilient as they age – they learn to assess the dangers for themselves – currents, depth, temperature, debris etc.

That said, for parents who don’t know how to swim themselves, teaching children to swim can be tricky. I feel strongly that we must get swimming lessons back in Valemount.

Having a patchwork approach to swimming safety puts those kids who don’t swim at additional risk, since as kids get older they may go beyond what’s comfortable for them.

The other side is swift water safety – both kids and adults would do well to refresh safety measures every time they go on the water. I was lucky to be part of Canoe Club for several years starting in Gr. 7, and this gave me an excellent primer on canoe safety and river safety. I had no idea how much I didn’t know until I learned it in that group. I was lucky enough to be in swimming lessons, but Canoe Club opened my eyes to a whole other set of problems I might encounter. It also empowered me to explore, but explore safely and in a group.

I’d like to see a local hotel open its doors again to swimming lessons. This would show great leadership in the community and address a pressing safety hazard among our youth. It would also be well worth it for someone to organize a swift water safety course for all ages.

Let’s be proactive and prevent a tragedy.