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Montreal ups age limit for unsupervised kids in pools

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MONTREAL—The move by Montreal to increase the minimum age for youngsters to be allowed into its public swimming pools without supervision is getting the thumbs-up from the province's lifesaving society.

Several drownings earlier this year prompted the city to raise the age to eight years old from six when municipal pools opened this summer.

There's also a height requirement—even if the child is eight.

Raynald Hawkins, director of the Quebec Lifesaving Society, said his organization agrees with the city's decision, adding it also meets standards that have been adopted in other provinces.

He said the two-year difference in ages is significant.

“We estimate that a lot of kids who are eight year olds are generally taller, have more skills to swim than a six-year-old, and can still be on their feet in the shallow end of a pool . . . but there are exceptions,” Hawkins said in an interview yesterday.

“We've come to the conclusion that at eight years of age, one child out of two would also know what to do if they fell into the deep end,” he added.

Hawkins stressed the depth of each pool and the child's ability to swim has to be taken into consideration—especially if they are six years old.

“That's why we say that below eight years of age, a child should be supervised by an adult,” he noted.

He compared it to a situation where a six-year-old would not be allowed to play on the streets without adult supervision.

Hawkins said 13 percent of drownings in Quebec occur in private pools like those in backyards, apartment buildings, and hotels, and that less than one percent happen in supervised public pools.

He said more and more supervised pools everywhere are doing likewise. In other words, checking the height of the children and their ability to swim.

“But the best person to keep an eye on their children is always the parents,” Hawkins added.

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