Lifeguard shortage in Toronto as city pools begin opening

Amidst a lifeguard shortage, the City of Toronto is opening 10 of its outdoor pools Saturday and seven out of the 10 city beaches will start to be monitored full time come Monday. 

According to the city, two of the beaches will not be supervised until later in the season due to lifeguard availability and one beach will only be supervised on the weekends.

The city says it requires 1,000 lifeguards to supervise beaches, outdoor and indoor pools and is about 140 lifeguards short of that target.

It also still needs to hire more than 100 wading pool attendants.

“We’re trying to make do,” Mayor John Tory said. 

“We’re just taking steps now to make sure we have more lifeguards available, including those already with training, and to see the training program stepped up to make up for lost time during the pandemic.”

A lifeguard will be on duty at Cherry Beach from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week. (John Badcock/CBC )

Tory chalked the lack of lifeguards up to pools being closed and lifeguard training programs that were put on hold during the past two years.

He’s encouraging anyone who is qualified to apply for a lifeguarding position.

According to Lifeguarding Academy located just north of Toronto’s Little Italy, getting certified is not as complicated as some might think. The process to get the necessary qualifications can be as short as eight days.

Pedram Ghafoori, who works at the academy as a lead instructor, certifies about 40 lifeguards a month. He said a lot of them take jobs with the city or other organizations in the GTA but there aren’t enough training facilities to meet the demands. 

“There has always been a shortage even before COVID except that because of COVID now we are seeing the results a lot more pronounced,” he said. 

Ghafoori said there might be less of a scramble to find lifeguards every summer if the compensation was higher.

“I think a lot of people would decide to remain lifeguards rather than letting it be a part-time job until they have a chance to get a full-time job.”

As of June 18, Alex Duff Memorial Pool, Heron Park Community Centre, High Park, Grandravine Community Recreation Centre, Kiwanis Outdoor Pool, McGregor Park Community Centre, Monarch Park, Parkway Forest Outdoor Pool, Pine Point Park Outdoor Pool and West Mall Outdoor pool will open partially, on weekends and evenings. 

Starting June 20, lifeguards will be on duty and will supervise Bluffer’s Park, Cherry, Centre Island, Kew-Balmy, Marie Curtis, Sunnyside and Woodbine Beaches from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week. 

Gibraltar Point and Ward’s Island will not be supervised until later in the season and the beach at Hanlan’s Point will only offer weekend supervision, despite the city stating earlier in the month it would be supervised on weekends starting June 20.

Once schools conclude on June 30, all city outdoor pools will be open with full hours of operation. 

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