Thursday, May 25, 2017

Surrey, BC - women only swim enquiry #2

One of the cities in the greater Vancouver Regional District is Surrrey - a huge area of amalgamated municpalities. It has several swimming pools

On March 25, 2017 I requested women only swim info through the Freedom of Information Act. I received a very small package (10 pages!) today - two months later. That is less than 1/20th of what the City of Coquitlam provided. As with Coquitlam, I was not charged any fee.

What struck me after the minimal info was the fact that where items had been blocked out there was no mention of which section of the act required the censoring. Coquitlam blacked it out, here they whited it out (my printer budget thanks the City of Surrey). And the info was spotty - 2008, 2014 and 2015. I immediately asked for more information. I have 30 days.


1. The people of only one religion are mentioned - Muslims. Despite Surrey having perhaps the largest concentration of Sikhs in Canada, they are not being accommodated (or maybe they never asked, nor need to).

2. Response to an undated  'women only swim' survey from the city of  Burnaby, with the following questions and answers (astericks etc in red are mine)...

Q:  Does your municipality offer a women's only swim? If yes, does it accommodate Muslim women? *1
- North Surrey Indoor Pool offers a Women and Girls Only swim and gym on Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 to 10:00 pm. We accommodate Muslim women. * 1
- Sometimes childcare can be an issue so we have allowed women to bring boys under the age of 7.

Q: Did your municipality they (sic) make any specific programming modifications or operational modifications, to run this program? For example, cover windows looking into pool area for privacy of the Muslim women, or staffing the sessions with only female guards etc? *2
- We extended operational hours on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
- We adjusted the signing hours on Tuesday and Thusrday evenings (decreased to 2 X 2 hour shifts - 8:30 - 10:30 pm) so that only female  guards could sign for Women's Only without hugely affecting potential loss of hours for male guards. * 3
- We installed blinds on all windows/doors for privacy. * 4

Q: When does the program operate? Is it offered as a rental? During a public swim time?
- Every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 9:00- 10:00 pm.
- We offer it as a Value drop-in swim ($2.25)
- We also offer Women Only Swim Clinics at a rate of $5 per session. * 5

Q: How long has the program been operating? Aproximmately how many participants attend the sessions?
- The program was already in place when I started working here eight years ago. * 6 I am unsure of how long it ran before that.
- It orginially ran on Monday's and Wednesday's during the day but due to lack of particpiation (only a few women) we changed it to Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
- Since we changed the days, we average about 30 - 60 participants. Tuesdays tend to be busiest as Thursday's the Muslims in our community attend their mosque for worship. * 7 

Q: To plan this session did you work with representatives from this community to develop and implement the swim time? * 8 What was your process? * 9
- I believe the programmer who originally started this program worked with Diversity. * 10

Q: Do you have other comments/recommendations?
- We changed the title to "Women and Girls Only Swim" because when it was called "Women Only Swim" some participants complained that children attended.
- Be prepared to deal with a lot of irrate male patrons for adding a women's only time and not a male only time. * 11

*1 - How a swimming pool 'accommodates Muslim women' is not explained at first.

*2 Thus, the blinds and female only guards suggest that this is a Muslim issue not a female one, at least according to Burnaby.

*3 So men guards were forbidden to work?

*4  I must enquire what was the cost.

* 5 In another document, I learn that this means group swimming lessons

* 6 I will enquire who started it, why and when

* 7 Shouldn't that be Friday? Something is not right here.

* 8 Which community, Muslim presumably? Why is it called a 'community' rather than a 'religion'? Perhaps because the social norms of Islam deal with public life.

* 9 And what *was* the process?

* 10 'Diversity' is capitalized. Does this mean that this is an organization?

* 11 'Irrate' suggests irrational and angry. I am enquiring as to what those complaints were and how many.
3.  The undated 2015 Budget Issue Paper includes bureaucrat bullshitspeak...

"The Newton Wave Pool surrently offers a very successful Women's Only Swim 3 days a week to service the need of the many various cultural communities in the Newton Town Center. * 1 It was originated as a pilot project but has not been funded in our annual budget since its' (sic) inception. The swim is offered outside the regular hours of operation and addditional staff resources are required.


The budget request of $51,761 was approved for 50% in 2014. The remaining 50% will cover the expenses for offering a Women's Only Swim 3 days a week, Monday/Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings.   The minimum amount of staff required - 10 Lifeguard/instructors = 30 hours X 52 weeks x lifeguard/instructor rate. * 2


To be able to continue providing a Women's Only Swim 3 days a week at the Newton Wave Pool. To meet the needs of our diverse community by offering different options for safe, fun and respectful recreation opportunities. To re-frame our annual budget report to accurately reflect the program schedule we are currently offering."

The page continues in the request (from the City Fund?) for more money in order to finance the 'Women Only Swim' and adds...

"Offering the Women's Only Swim during regular operating hours is not currently an option." * 3  

The 2014 budget page on the Women's Only Swim reads the same word for word. * 4

*1 Why is this a lie? It is not the need of a diverse comunity. It is only the need of one community - Muslim. Not any other religion. Notice that the author used the singular.

*2 Are there not other expenses besides wages for labour? Electricity, security, etc

*3 I believe that this sentence holds a lot of meaning. I suspect it means that it would be illegal to do so according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I will investigate.

*4 Why the tenuousness of this program? I suspect it has something to do with the City is waiting to be sued. The city doesn't believe the program can continue -- due to a civil challenge.


The Surrey Pool 2012 brochure meantions something that is different from Coquitlam...

"No clothing that has been worn outside the pool can go in pool"

This would make the clothing I ocassionally see at the Coquitlam pool prohibited -- men with underwear under their swim trunks and women wearing street pants (rare).

In the section on women's only exercsie classes it notes, "during these lesson times there may be males in the pool area, including swimmers and instructors."

Their reply came the very next day, 'answers' to my questions about the missing information was as follows...

"Subsequent to our response dated May 25, 2017, on that date you requested the following:

1   1. Have all deleted sections been due to FOI Section 22 only? Or other sections of the FOI Act?  Normally redacted material is replaced with the relevant # (e.g. 22) I see no specific explanation from within the document regarding which exemption applies. 

2. The only dates of documents are see are 2008, 2014 and 2015.   Were there zero communications or publications on 'women only swims' between 2008 and 2014?  Likewise 2015 to 2017, and previous to 2008? Are those records available for me to study?

3. When does Surrey destroy records, going back how many years does the City keep records, digitally or on paper?

4. What are the dates of the writing, distribution and collating of results of the 'women only swim' survey?  It shows no year.

5. I received several publications and some records of emails. Were there no other records: emails, phone calls, paper letters, faxes, either internal or external (e.g. with Burnaby or Coquitlam) on the subject of 'women only swims'? 

6. Where is the record of any complaints on the 'women only swims' and how the City was to handle them or in fact did?

7. Where is the record of why the 'women only swims' were restarted (or have they been running non-stop since 2008)? 

8. Who requested 'women only swims' from within the Surrey community? Or did this program originate without community involvement?

9. Where are the records regarding the communications between those community groups and the City of Surrey.  I am not requesting the names of individuals, only organizations - so the privacy exemptions do not apply.

In response, we provide the following information:

1. The barcode section of page 10 of the records is the only redaction to the records disclosed.  The information was redacted as the code may be linked to registrants of a program.  We enclose a more legible scan of page 10 of the records. [ed. * see my note below]

2. There are no further records in response to the request. 
The search conducted involved consultation with staff, relevant staff conducting a search of their workstation and an electronic search of archives.

3. The records retention for Parks, Recreation and Culture programming is six years. 

4. The survey on page 4 of the records provided identifies the record was created July 9, 2010.

5. There are no further records related to this program.

6. There are no records of complaints regarding the program.

7. Staff recollection is that the program began in 2002 - 2004 as a pilot program that originated at the North Surrey Recreation Facility and expanded to the Newton Wave Pool. 

8. Staff recollection is that the program was originated with the community non-profit group Diversity.

9. There are no further records related to this program.

We enclose Parks, Recreation and Culture Policy documents that appear relevant to the substance of your request.

* ed. I checked the link on M=July 27 and it was not functioning. Perhaps I was too late. So, I asked them about it by email.

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