03/21/2013 03:23 EDT | Updated 05/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Kent Stewart Says Immigrants Need More Safety Programs In Canada

SASKATOON - A coroner in Saskatchewan wants more water safety programs to target new Canadians after an immigrant man drowned.

Muhammad Naqash Ali drowned at an aquatic centre in Saskatoon last June. The coroner has ruled his death accidental, noting that the 27-year-old Ali was an inexperienced swimmer.

Ali moved to Canada from Pakistan in May 2011 and lived in Ontario before moving to Saskatoon in January 2012.

"This is a very specialized type of issue that we've identified, not only in the province but also in Canada, specific to newcomers to Canada whether they be students, whether they be immigrants and that is the lack of water skills," said chief coroner Kent Stewart.

Saskatchewan has a growing immigrant population and Stewart notes that people from other countries are four times more likely to drown.

"I think because number 1, folks that are coming into Canada are not used to being in the water recreational activities," said Stewart.

"And number 2, they don't have the necessary knowledge about swimming skills, safety and all of those types of things that I think sometimes in Saskatchewan we sort of take for granted."

The coroner is recommending the city of Saskatoon, the Lifesaving Society and the Red Cross need to work together to enhance access to water safety programs. Stewart said that access could mean programs will have to take into account language issues and culture.

The Lifesaving Society says the recommendation is not a surprise because of the drowning risk for immigrants.

Shelby Rushton, the society's Saskatchewan CEO, says the organization has reached out to the Open Door Society, an organization that provides settlement and integration services to refugees and immigrants.

"We've decided to go to the people who are really new, they're still even learning English, because they're the ones that aren't going to be able to read the signage as well at the pools and really not be aware of how dangerous water is in our country," said Rushton.

"We're going after adults first and then we're encouraging them to get down to the pool, get themselves and their children into swimming lessons."

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