Healthy Living in the North

Be “reel” safe! Here fishy, fishy, fishy!

Boy holding two large fish

Make great family memories this weekend with a safe and fun trip to the lake!

Winter feels like a distant memory! Lakes are open, bulbs are blooming, and everything looks so green! For those who love the outdoors, there are an abundance of aquatic activities available to enjoy, from boating to swimming and kayaking to fishing!

Northern British Columbia, with its rugged landscape and pristine wilderness, provides exceptional fishing ground! There are thousands of lakes, streams and tidal waters to fish – whether for fun or for fresh food!

With all the excitement of warmer temperatures and the thrill that comes with a weekend of outdoor fun, it is important to remember to stay safe so that you can get back out there and continue to enjoy the beautiful weather, lakes and streams.

Did you know?

  • Drownings are most likely to occur in natural bodies of water such as rivers and lakes.
  • The majority of these drownings occur on weekends from May to August. 
  • The highest proportion of incidents occur during recreational activity, most commonly swimming, fishing or boating.
  • In B.C., water-related fatality rates are highest among men and young adults.
  • 90% of boating drownings can be prevented by wearing a life-jacket or personal flotation device (PFD).
Young girl fishing off of a boat

Don’t forget to pack your life-jackets and remember to “have a word with yourself” before heading to the lake. Following a few safety tips can keep you and your family smiling and safe!

Getting out to the lake makes for great summer memories! Make sure to have a safe and fun time on and near the water by following these safety tips:

  • Boat and swim sober.
  • Ensure everyone wears a life-jacket or PFD.
  • Ensure all children under age six wear life-jackets when in, on, or around water.
  • Learn how to swim and take a first aid and CPR course.

For all you fishermen, women, and children out there, and for everyone enjoying your time on or near the water, have a safe and fun time! In the words of, remember to “have a word with yourself” and don’t forget to pack your life-jackets.

This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.


Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.


Practising Safe Boating

Canoe fishing on a lakeOkay I’ll admit it. I like to have a beer now and again. Drinking is a part of a lot of our lives, but sometimes it’s just not a good idea.

Awhile back, my wife and I went canoeing on a popular lake north of town. It was a good day, clear and sunny. During our paddle around the lake we were almost capsized by a couple of guys in a power boat. We made it back to the beach safely but it was a close call.

When we got back on land we encountered the guys from the power boat. They were not “bad people.” They apologized for almost overturning us and offered us each a beer from a cooler between the seats. There were empties rattling around in the bottom of the boat and both looked to be a little bit drunk. Now these guys would probably not drive a car after drinking but they thought of going out in a boat as something different. It didn’t occur to them that impaired is impaired or that a boat is a motor vehicle.

Because of the work I do, I know that according to the Canadian Red Cross, about 200 people will die in boating accidents in Canada this year and that 25% of those will have alcohol in their blood. About 40% of all boating mishaps involve alcohol. Operating a vessel while under the influence is a Criminal Code offence. Drinking on a boat that does not have onboard living accommodations is an offence as well.

We all want to have a good time. Part of having a good time is getting home safe.

How are you and your family staying safe on the water this summer?


Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.


Preventable’s advice: Have a word with yourself!

English Bay statues wearing lifejackets

Vancouver’s statues at English Bay wearing lifejackets for Preventable’s water safety campaign. (Photo borrowed from

Last month, Preventable launched their water safety awareness campaign with oversized lifejackets on the laughing statues in Vancouver. When I saw the promotions for this campaign, I wondered where we could have ‘dressed’ local mascots and statues to draw attention to water safety in communities across Northern B.C.?

The media release for this campaign noted that every year in B.C., at least 60 British Columbians drown. Ninety percent of those who drown while boating do not wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD).

The Preventable campaign, in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross and BC Hydro, took over Vancouver’s much-loved sculpture “A-maze-ing Laughter” at English Bay. They dressed the sculpture in oversized orange lifejackets and set out a sign beside the display, reminding people to have a word with themselves before they think drowning only happens to other people.

I encourage everyone to check out the Preventable website for great information and thought-provoking discussions that might help you start thinking about the right things before you get out on the water: Are you wearing appropriate safety equipment, including approved personal floatation devices (PFDs)? Are you taking appropriate safety precautions while operating a boat? Or are you ignoring obvious risks by thinking that bad things only happen to “other people?”

The goal is to get us all thinking about risks, consequences and choices we make every day at work, home, at play and on the road. Before you jump into that pool or lake, or climb onto the Jet Ski or boat, and think that drowning only happens to other people, have a word with yourself.

What mascots or statues in Northern B.C. do you think would look great with a lifejacket on?

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.