Joey Dillon and James Day practise boating safety. – photo courtesy of Rose Johnson

With waterways in the area melting and boating season fast approaching, the Northwest Territories Recreation and Parks Association is reminding people to stay safe on the water.

For the last few years, the NWTRPA has been engaging in a campaign targeting men, who make up the vast majority of drownings in the territory.
“A lot of the focus was on males and how to engage males in safe boating practice,” said Rose Johnson, aquatics coordinator for the NWTRPA.

Her organization met with people in Inuvik, Deline, and Fort Simpson to discuss ways to improve those statistics and reduce water-related incidents.

“What came from those community meetings … was that we were seeing they wanted to do a lot of education on preparing for a trip on the water,” said Johnson, adding that people wanted to see more resources available.

“For Inuvik, that was one of the big key messages they wanted to get across: when you’re out on a boat, make sure you’re wearing your life jacket (and) make sure you have one that fits properly.”

Because of the nature of the many waterways, lakes and rivers in the territory, enforcement is a difficult task, so the NWTRPA focuses on the education side of things.

From 2009-2013, the NWT averaged 6.9 deaths per 100,000 people, higher than all of the provinces but lower than Yukon and Nunavut.
In that same period, the drowning rate in the three territories was 9.6 people per 100,000 population, down from 14.4 in the previous four-year recording period.

More than 80 per cent of drowning fatalities between 2009 and 2013 were men. An average of 385 males drowned each year in that time period across the country. Comparatively, an average of 88 females drowned each year in that same timeframe. Most of the deaths among males were young adults between 20 and 34 years old. “We felt that it was important to speak to (the drowning rate of males) and address that with people,” said Johnson.

The NWTRPA has not scheduled any workshops this summer yet but will be making some public service announcements.