‘I was very uncomfortable’: Muslim family told they can’t swim at waterpark due to burkini

A Winnipeg family is looking to raise awareness about burkinis after an incident at a Manitoba water park.

Halima Jelloul, her husband and two daughters were excited to take a trip to Lilac Resort on Friday.

Minutes after arriving, they were told they couldn’t enter the pool because of what they were wearing.

“About 10-15 minutes, the owner approached us and said that due to the burkini me and my daughter were wearing we aren’t allowed on the waterslide,” said Jelloul.

“I was very uncomfortable, obviously. I wasn’t shocked it happened,” said Jelloul’s 14-year-old daughter Salma Douida.

A burkini is a full-body swimsuit similar to a wetsuit, designed to respect Islamic traditions of modest dress.

Lifesaving Society Manitoba says there shouldn’t be a reason that a burkini isn’t allowed.

“As long as the burkini in question is properly constructed, there are no safety concerns,” said Christopher Love, the organization’s safety management coordinator, in an email, “I have seen some in use, and they really do function like wet suits and provide for modesty while also allowing a full range of motion in the water.”

Lilac Resort’s owner, Dan Manaigre, said he approached the family because he didn’t know what a burkini was and thought it was streetwear — a major public health violation if worn in a pool. 

“I want to apologize to the family because I just didn’t know,” said Manaigre.

Manaigre has sent a memo out to all of his staff explaining what a burkini is and that they are allowed.

“Moving forward, they’ve all been told that burkini will be acceptable wear. However, they will continue enforcing no streetwear in the pool,” he said.

After a discussion with the family and a health inspector, Jelloul was told her and her family could swim, but they chose to leave.

“My daughters were crying. It wasn’t really a pleasing moment for us, so I had to check in with my daughters to see if they were okay and wanted to stay or leave,” explained Jelloul.

Moving forward, the family is hoping to spread awareness of what a burkini is.

“On a daily basis we experience that at the beach. People looking at you not knowing what it is, which is okay, and some education needs to happen,” Jelloul said.

“And I think that Muslim women or anyone who dresses modestly should have the right to and that if this happens to them, they should speak up,” added Douida.

Knowledge they hope can prevent someone else from experiencing a similar situation.

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