Canadian City Plans Privacy Swims for Muslim Women

At a time when burkini is banned in France, the city of New Westminster, British Columbia, has concluded an agreement with the Canadian Muslim community on planning privacy swims for Muslim women, New West Record reported.

“Privacy swims are of relevance as related to religious practices of some members of the community that dictate that genders dress modestly to not draw attention to themselves, especially around those of the opposite gender outside of their immediate family,” read the report by the advisory panel meeting with Tri-City Muslim community and New Westminster Aquatic and Community Center.

“It was also identified through the engagement process that privacy swims are important to members of the LGBTQ community, especially for transgender and non-binary individuals who wish to participate in aquatic activities in a safe and inclusive environment, without the fear of discrimination based on their gender identity,” the report added.

Earlier this year, the City of New Westminster hired Castlemain Group to work on a strategy to engage with the city residents about the planned New Westminster Aquatic and Community Center.

The main themes through this engagement included providing culturally relevant spaces for things such as smudging ceremonies and appropriate representation of different cultures.

On her behalf, Ali Kenyon, an associate with HCMA Architecture + Design, said “engagement with the Muslim community has found there’s interest in privacy swims in the leisure pool and significant interest in privacy fitness areas. It’s intended that these ideas will become part of the building’s design.”

Steve Kellock, senior manager of recreation for the City of New Westminster, said: “the openness of the city’s two outdoor pools and the single 67-meter tank at Canada Games Pool don’t lend themselves to the inclusion of privacy swims at this time.”

“The current design of the future aquatic center includes two pools – a 50-meter lane swimming pool and a leisure pool, which provides opportunities for creating unique spaces that consider privacy issues,” he informed.

New Westminster is a member municipality of Metro Vancouver and its native inhabitants are the Qayqayt Amerindians.

The city was founded in 1858 when it was Canada’s largest Mainland city until it was passed in population by Vancouver during the first decade of the 20th Century.

According to the Canadian 2016 Census, New Westminster had a total population of 70,996. After centuries of massacres committed by European invaders, the number of native Amerindians declined to represent no more than 4.2% of the total population.

New Westminster is part of Canada’s third most populous province, British Columbia, where Muslims form about 1.8% of the region’s total population according to 2011 estimates.