Bill Maden figures he takes his dip in Halifax harbour at the only safe time of the year – the dead of winter. For a quarter-century, Mr. Maden, a personal investment advisor, has organized the Polar Bear Club’s New Year’s Day swim.
Public health authorities routinely close, or "post," beaches when high levels of bacteria contaminate bordering waters, scaring off would-be swimmers with signs typically reading: "Warning. Polluted waters. Swim at your own risk." During the summer of 1996, Toronto Public Health Services posted beaches on the city’s west side three quarters of the time. Some years the department has warned swimmers away for virtually the entire summer. Recent years have also seen closings elsewhere along the Great Lakes shoreline, from Thunder Bay to the St. Lawrence River. In the nation’s capital, The Ottawa Citizen has described BritanniaBeach on the Ottawa River as "a giant toilet that doesn’t always flush."
The current debate over West Coast salmon, focusing on who should catch how many fish, has obscured another threat to salmon: habitat destruction.