07/05/2012 07:15 EDT | Updated 09/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Quebec 'swim to survive' program to go ahead

The province confirms that the Liberal government has given the green light to "swim to survive," a basic swimming program piloted in several schools two years ago.

The program promotes basic swimming skills to survive a fall into deep water and targets children in Grade 3.

The decision comes as Quebec experiences a spike in drownings this year, that is prompting calls for mandatory water safety education for children.

"Swim to survive" will initially roll out on a voluntary basis at first, according to Education Minister Michelle Courchesne.

"First we'll start with schools that are interested in offering it, but we'll provide good incentives — that is, covering a certain portion of the costs," Courchesne told Radio-Canada.

"You have to understand that this program happens in pools, and there aren't pools everywhere, so we would have to provide transportation for students."

Eventually the program could become mandatory, "and if it's well done, there will be a demand," Courchesne said.

The program includes three one-hour lessons in which children learn how to roll into the water — mimicking falling situations.

Children learn to tread water for 60 seconds and swim 50 metres.

Lifeguard associations have hailed the program as a productive step for spreading basic water safety skills.

Initial costs are estimated between one and $1.5-million.

Several coroner reports have recommended water safety training for children, following investigations into past drownings.