A shortage of lifeguards means some beaches in the national capital region will be unsupervised this summer and swimming classes are being cancelled. 

Both the city of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission are struggling to recruit staff for the positions.

The situation is worrying for many parents.

"Water safety is so important," said Michael Ranney, a parent with two young kids. "Especially for the past two years, where a lot of kids like mine haven’t been able to continue with their swimming lessons and are still getting comfortable in the water."

Ranney said having reduced access to lifeguards is going to put kids at an increased risk. 

In a memo, the city of Ottawa’s Recreation, Cultural, and Facility Services manager said, "A significant number of staff hired for this summer have submitted resignations, mostly to pursue employment opportunities in other fields."

The memo went on to say that the result would mean cancelling certain public swim times, reducing the swim capacities at public swim sessions, and cancelling approximately 50 learn-to-swim classes.

"It’s kind of concerning," said Ashley Stewart, a parent in the Ottawa area. "Kids want to be in the pools and they want to be swimming."

Barbara Byers of the Lifesaving Society says the lifeguard hiring crunch is being felt across the country.

"It’s been a real scramble to get enough staff, recertify staff, and to get them to be able to work for the summer," said Byers, who is a senior research officer with the society. 

In Quebec, there’s an estimated shortage of 200 lifeguards.

City pools can only stay open if there is a lifeguard, but it is not the same situation at public beaches.

It means the National Capital Commission is deciding to leave some beaches unsupervised.

"This year has been a particularly hard year to find good lifeguards to monitor our beaches," said Cedric Williams, of the National Capital Commission. "Coverage will vary from day to day or days of the week or weekends."

Byers says the cost of recertification and the pay for the job is a deterrent for many considering the position.

"Over time the minimum wage has gone up and the differential between that wage and the lifeguarding wage has not been maintained," she said.

As people head to the water, Byers says it is important to check whether the beach has a lifeguard on staff because less than one per cent of drownings happen in lifeguard supervised areas.