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Swimming Standards


Scouts Canada is committed to fun, safe adventures and using the water as an integral component of our outdoor learning environment. We believe that everyone involved in Scouts Canada should have the opportunity to be appropriately competent in swimming-related emergency aid to others e.g. National Lifeguard Standard, Bronze Cross or equivalent certification. This is part of our goal to prepare youth for success in life.

When Sections organize swimming activities, including as part of an aquatic activity (e.g. canoe expedition), it is the responsibility of the Group Commissioner to ensure that the person(s) in charge is competent to lead the activity in the waters to be used and to ensure that the standards that follow are observed.


Our Standards

1.  These standards apply to public and private facilities.

2.  The Group Commissioner approves all aquatic and / or swimming-activities and reviews risk management plans prior to commencement for all camping and outdoor adventures as part of the Camping and Outdoor Adventures Applications procedure.

a. Aquatic / Swimming activities include, but are not limited to: swimming, paddling, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, paddle-boarding, boating and sailing.

3.  All Scouting sections may participate in aquatic / swimming activities at public / municipal pools, established waterfronts (e.g. at Scouts Canada established camps and properties, provincial parks, conservation areas, municipal beaches) and third-party aquatic facilities, when the facility is:

i.         Staffed by aquatic personnel;

ii.         Follows appropriate provincial/territorial regulations; and,

iii.         Has lifesaving equipment readily available.

In addition, for Beaver Colonies: the Scouter-in-Charge will ensure:

a. The ratio of Colony youth to Scouters and parents/other adult helpers shall be 3:1

b. Scouters and parents/other adult helpers must be within arm’s reach of Beaver Scouts

4.  Packs, Troops, Companies, and Crews may participate in swimming and aquatic activities at pools and waterfronts not supervised by certified lifeguards. The specific requirements depend upon the level of training and supervision available, either: (1) With qualified Aquatic Activity Supervisors, or (2) Without qualified Aquatic Activity Supervisors.

With qualified Aquatic Activity Supervisors

a. At least two aquatic activity supervisors for groups of between 1 – 25 swimmers must be on duty, positioned in the designated aquatic activity or swimming area.

i. An additional aquatic activity supervisor is required for every additional 25 swimmers.

b. The minimum qualification for an aquatic activity supervisor is a current Life Saving Society Bronze Cross (must be current within the last 24 months).

c. Aquatic activity supervisors must provide a copy of their certificate to their Group Commissioner or appropriate supervisor.

i.  Youth who are being asked to assume an Aquatic supervisor role for an activity should be informed of the expectation and their parents should give consent.

d. Where both designated aquatic activity supervisors are below the age of majority, a Scouter (age 18 or older) must be designated as a Lookout Scouter in addition to the aquatic supervision.

i. Lookout Scouters provide additional supervision to swimmers from the pool deck or the shore at a waterfront. Lookout Scouters are dedicated to this task and are “on duty” (not cooking/multitasking/in the water swimming).

e. Before beginning a swim period, the safety of the swimming area shall be established, clearly defined and communicated to the Group.

i.  When establishing the safety of the swimming area, all hazardous features should be considered and avoided: fast flowing rivers, proximity to waterfalls / rapids, proximity to debris, contaminated waters or weather-related events e.g. thunderstorms.

ii.  In non-established waterfront areas, Scouts Canada recommends all swimmers to have some type of appropriate footwear (e.g. water shoes or well secured sandals etc.)

f. Each swimmer must complete a swim test annually in conditions that represent the aquatic activity. The swim test is composed of 2 parts:

i. Swim 50 meters: continuous swimming, unaided, without touching the sides or bottom

ii. Tread water for one minute – immediately following the 50 meter swim.

g. Participants who do not pass the swim test may still participate, providing they wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD).

h. Aquatic activity supervisors will be identified to the swimmers prior to the commencement of swimming activities, and suitable attire is to be worn by the supervisors while on duty

i. All swim groups must be organized under the paired “buddy system”

Without qualified Aquatic Activity Supervisors e.g. while adventure camping, backpacking, canoe, kayak or sail tripping at a non-established waterfront.

a.  All swimmers must wear an approved, properly fitted, personal flotation device (PFD) or life-jacket at all times.

b.  At least two Scouters (age 18 or older) who act as Lookout Scouters for groups of 1 – 16 swimmers positioned in the designated aquatic activity or swimming area.

i.  An additional Lookout Scouter is required for every additional 8 swimmers.

c.  Before beginning a swim period, the safety of the swimming area shall be established, clearly defined and communicated to the group.

d.  Lookout Scouters will be identified to the swimmers prior to the commencement of swimming activities, and suitable attire (“ready to assist/intervene in the water”) is to be worn by the supervisors while on duty.

e.  Swimming capability of all swimmers must be known, and appropriate risk management considered. Swim tests are recommended, but not mandated.

f.  All swim groups must be organized under the paired “buddy system”

5.  The minimum rescue equipment required for all aquatic activities is:

a. First aid kit and related rescue equipment readily available that meets provincial or territorial requirements

b. A communication device (e.g. cellular phone or radio) to contact emergency services

c. A buoyant throwing assist attached to a line that is at least six millimetres in diameter and 15 metres in length.

6. Standing, exploring or playing in shallow water where the water level is approximately below mid-calf on all participants and safety of the swimming area has previously been established (e.g. slow-moving river, lake edge, wading pool, etc.) is permitted for all Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers without additional personal flotation device (PFD) or life-jacket.

  • Follow the supervision requirements specified for swimming in Sections 1 – 5.

[1] Live Saving Society
[2] Volunteer screening procedure
[3] Life Saving Society
[4] Life Saving Society recommends on backcountry trips that a throw bag with a 15 m is acceptable

Related Policies & Standards


Related Procedures




Effective Date

September 1, 2019



June 21, 2019

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