Swim tops are now optional at City of Red Deer pools to align with the Alberta Human Rights Act.
At the other end of the swimwear spectrum, changes to swimwear guidelines effective July 7 also allow swimmers to wear things like burkinis, full coverage of head/legs, shorts and t-shirts for cultural, religious, or other reasons.
“We’re kind of a little late to the party in Red Deer. The majority of other mid-size cities and our large centres in Alberta made this move previously,” said city recreation superintendent Barb McKee.
The Alberta Human Rights Act has not changed recently, however, a review of the city’s guidelines was triggered by changes made by other communities based on the act which does not allow for the discrimination of people based on gender, gender identity or gender expression.
McKee said previously men, or men who identified as men, were not required to wear tops and aquatic staff would have approached someone who appeared female and asked them to cover up.
“Starting today we won’t be addressing people who aren’t wearing a top,” said McKee on Friday.
“It really is being a bit more inclusive in how our staff look at who’s in the pool and what is and isn’t presenting risk, and just realizing it’s more about the space they’re occupying than what they’re wearing.
“It’s a bit broader definition that welcomes all of our community.”
She said a sari, which can be six or eight metres of fabric, would not be appropriate for the deep end of a pool for safety reasons, but would be okay for the shallow end.
These updates to the Aquatics Facilities User Guidelines apply to pools, and adjoining spaces such as change rooms and saunas, at G.H. Dawe Community Centre, Collicutt Centre, Michener Aquatics Centre and Recreation Centre (indoor and outdoor pools).
Before Friday, appropriate swim attire was not defined in the guidelines except that bottoms and tops for females, and bottoms for males, in addition to other best health and safety practices for attire.
McKee said other municipalities have not had any significant incidents due to the changes which have been in place elsewhere for awhile. There won’t be added security at Red Deer pools, and the city’s aquatic staff will continue to support the guidelines and deal with any incidents or safety issues should they arise.
“I can’t imagine there being a huge change to what it looks like in our pools. We just merely changed our guidelines to align with the Alberta Human Rights Act.”
The purpose of the Alberta Human Rights Act is to ensure all Albertans are offered an equal opportunity to earn a living, find a place to live, and enjoy services customarily available to the public without discrimination.
The new appropriate swim attire definition was written in partnership with the Lifesaving Society, in compliance with Alberta Health Services.
Specific times where swim tops will be required for users will not be set up at the city’s aquatic facilities to ensure fairness to everyone.