Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit July 13, 2017 - 10:00 am

Understaffed Nunavut pool turning pass holders away, says youth

Iqaluit's Cassiar Cousins says expensive annual pass worthless without ample lifeguards

BETH BROWN
Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern, left, with 11-year-old Cassiar Cousins and recreation committee chair Coun. Joanasie Akumalik. Cousins attended a city council meeting, July 11, to ask the city to hire more lifeguards at the Aquatic Centre during peak times, so paying pass holders are not turned away. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern, left, with 11-year-old Cassiar Cousins and recreation committee chair Coun. Joanasie Akumalik. Cousins attended a city council meeting, July 11, to ask the city to hire more lifeguards at the Aquatic Centre during peak times, so paying pass holders are not turned away. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Families who have paid for monthly and annual passes at Iqaluit’s fancy new Aquatic Centre say they can’t always use the pool on weekends because of understaffing.

We know this because of Cassiar Cousins, age 11.

Concerned by the limitations at what is otherwise one of her favourite hang-outs in town, Cousins wrote a letter to the City to let councillors know that the centre is turning away paying customers when there aren’t enough lifeguards at pool side.

Mayor Madeleine Redfern read Cousins’ letter at a city council meeting, July 11.

“It has been noticed by my fellow classmates that when we go to the pool and have the family yearly pass, we can’t go in sometimes because it is too full, the lifeguards say,” Cousins’ letter reads.

The letter goes on to request the city hire more lifeguards or offer a reimbursement to compensate pass holders who aren’t able to use the pool when it’s at capacity due to understaffing. 

“We have spent a lot of money on the family yearly passes. We find that it is a waste of money that we can have to use on food or to help someone in need… I hope you can fix this,” wrote Cousins.

The annual family pass, for pool use alone, is $1,680, for a maximum of five people. The monthly family pass pool fee is $168. For the pool and fitness centre combined, the annual family rate is $2,100.

Cousins, who is on her school student council, attended the July 11 council meeting, waiting two hours before her request was addressed. Councillors welcomed her with applause.

“The times it might be too full would be the family swim on the weekends, on the weekends for public swim or sometimes on Friday,” the youth told Nunatsiaq News following the meeting, adding that the problem has existed ever since the pool opened.

She said she’s grateful for the new public space, and visits the pool regularly with her friends.

Cousins’ letter requesting more staff at the pool comes only a few weeks after the city let go its roster of volunteer fitness instructors after the group threatened to leave en masse unless concerns were met regarding health and safety issues, insurance coverage and class fees.

Since the volunteers have been discharged, the schedule for fitness classes in the pool has thinned considerably.

There is, however, lifeguard skill development at the Aquatic Centre on Sunday evenings.

Redfern thanked Cousins for raising the issue. The mayor said similar letters have been received by the city but were not translated in time to be presented at council.

With the Aquatic Centre nearing at its sixth month of operations, deputy mayor Romeyn Stevenson said it’s no surprise that start-up wrinkles still need to be ironed out.

“We’re pretty happy that the pool is too full because it means it is being used. It means kids want to go,” Stevenson said, adding that reorganizing staffing to match demand will be a priority moving forward.

Cousins’ letter, and similar submissions, are expected to be addressed at the next meeting of the recreation committee.

“I think it’s important that [committee members] see how decisions impact our youth and the community,” said Coun. Jason Rochon.

Coun. Joanasie Akumalik, who is chair of the recreation committee, asked Cousins to attend and speak at the upcoming meeting.

He also asked Cousins if she would consider becoming a lifeguard herself, so she could someday work at the Aquatic Centre.

Cousins said she’d think about it. 

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