NWT Collaboration to Reduce Drownings Receives National Recognition

News Releases

YELLOWKNIFE (November 27, 2013) – The GNWT’s collaborative approach to addressing the large number of preventable drownings has been recognized with the Award for Collaborative Excellence from the Canadian Collaborative Centres for Injury Prevention (CCCIP). The award is given every two years to recognize national leadership in injury prevention collaboration.

The NWT’s drowning prevention collaboration draws together GNWT departments and agencies  with external partners to address the leading causes of drownings in the territory. The award recognizes the success of this collaborative approach, including the more than 50% reduction in the average number of yearly drownings over the past five years.

“All NWT residents need to be involved in creating safe, sustainable communities and making healthy choices,” said Tom Beaulieu, Minister of Transportation. “The success of this collaborative approach is a testament to the willingness of our residents to watch, prepare, and train to stay safe on our waterways. Congratulations to the Drowning Prevention team for this award recognizing their commitment to healthy and safe communities.”

The award made particular mention of the GNWT’s collaboration with the Lifesaving Society of Alberta and the NWT to bring the Water Smart program to all communities in the Northwest Territories. Barbara Costache, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Lifesaving Society, says community engagement and a collective effort are keys to building public awareness around drowning prevention. “The Lifesaving Society collaborates with partners for its health and safety mandate of drowning and injury prevention, sport, recreation, and active living,” she said. “The Society congratulates the residents of the Northwest Territories and looks forward to enhancing the Water Smart program with our partners to reduce drowning in the Northwest Territories.”

In the past 10 years, the number of drownings in the NWT has dropped significantly, in large part because of success in encouraging residents to wear lifejackets and to boat sober. In the five years from 2004-2008, there were 36 drownings in the NWT compared to 16 in the period starting in 2009 (including 2013 to date). This is still five times higher than the national per capita average.

The NWT Drowning Prevention Action Plan is part of the Healthy Choices Framework initiative, which invests in prevention, education, and awareness to help ensure sustainable, vibrant, and safe NWT communities.

For more information, contact:

Earl Blacklock
Manager of Public Affairs and Communications
Department of Transportation
867-445-3494 (Cell)



The NWT Drowning Prevention Action Plan is managed through the Injury Prevention table of the Healthy Choices Framework, with all partners meeting regularly to plan drowning prevention activities for the current and coming year. The collaboration promotes three main actions to significantly reduce one’s risk of drowning:

  • Boat sober
  • Wear a lifejacket when on or by the water
  • Be trained for water activities


This award recognizes the following partners who contribute to the action plan:

  • Department of Health and Social Services
  • Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Education, Culture and Employment
  • Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment
  • NWT Coroner’s Office
  • Royal Life Saving Society
  • Transport Canada
  • Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission
  • Northwest Territories Recreation and Parks Association
  • Dene Nation
  • Inuvialuit Regional Corporation
  • Coast Guard Auxiliary
  • Power and Sail Squadron


The Water Smart™ program is available to every community in the NWT through the Royal Life Saving Society of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, with support from Transport Canada and the GNWT. Other water safety training initiatives include boat safety training for NWT commercial boat operators (ITI) and training to ensure safe work practices for those whose work involves tasks on, near, and over water (WSCC).

The Drowning Prevention collaboration will continue to grow to include all those interested in harm reduction and the prevention of injuries and fatalities related to activities on and near the NWT’s waterways. Efforts to further reduce the number of drownings in the Northwest Territories continue. Despite a reduction of more than 50% in the number of drownings over the past five years, further reductions will be necessary to bring drowning levels in the Northwest Territories to the Canadian per-capita average. That would mean a reduction of more than 80% from the current five-year level. The goal of the partners in the NWT Drowning Prevention Action Plan is to have zero drownings in 2014, a level that was achieved in 2011.

The Canadian Collaborative Centres for Injury Prevention is a network of national, provincial, and regional injury prevention organizations mandated to analyze and act on leading injury issues across Canada. The Award for Collaborative Excellence recognizes and celebrates the value and power of collaboration as the keystone to effective injury prevention and safety promotion practice in Canada.