Safe Boating is Smart Boating

Written By: Salvatore Shaw and Lori Khaouli, Summer Student

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Boating season in Ontario is in full swing. As Ontario continues to ease lockdown restrictions, recreational boating is a popular summer activity that offers plenty of opportunity for physical distancing. However, misuse of pleasure crafts results in hundreds of injuries and fatalities each year. Practicing safe boating means that the operator of the boat, and all of the passengers on board, understand the risks and rules of boating.


  • Boating While Impaired: Operating a pleasure craft under the influence of drugs or alcohol puts all passengers on board and others using the waterway at risk. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, operating a pleasure craft while impaired can lead to license suspension, fines, and even imprisonment.[1] In Ontario, the punishment for a person charged with drinking while boating mirrors the punishment for drinking and driving.[2]
  • Proof of Competency: Everyone who operates a motorized pleasure craft must carry proof of competency on board in the form of a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, proof of having passed a boating safety course in Canada, or other forms of proof. While taking a boating course is not required, it is highly recommended to ensure the operator of the boat understands best practices, current regulations, and risk-prevention measures.
  • Safety Equipment Requirements: Depending on the type and length of the boat, the safety equipment required on board may vary. However, the safety equipment should be in good working order, placed in a space that is easy to reach in case of an emergency and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The recommended on-board equipment includes a watertight flashlight, whistle or other sound signaling device, paddle or oar, first aid kit, and lifejackets for every person on board.[3]


  • Lifejackets: Over 80% of Canadians who drown while boating were not wearing a lifejacket, or were not wearing their lifejacket properly.[4] While on the water, ensure that all passengers on board are wearing lifejackets that are approved by Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, or Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
  • Dangerous Behaviour: Boating accidents may happen when the operator of the boat misjudges their speed or distance relative to another vessel. Operating at a safe speed depends on the surrounding circumstances: take into account the weather conditions, water conditions, and wind conditions, the type of vessels in the vicinity, navigational hazards, and visibility, among other factors.
  • Cold Water: Ontario waters are cold for much of the year, including during boating season. Being submerged in cold water can lead to hypothermia and drowning. On average, 60% of Canadian boaters who drowned, drowned in water that was below 10 degrees Celsius.[5] The Canadian Safe Boating Council provides detailed guidance on how to protect yourself from the risks of cold water.


As the owner, operator, or passenger of a recreational pleasure craft, you are responsible for staying up to date with changing laws and regulations. Recently, Transport Canada issued guidelines to ensure the safe operation of pleasure crafts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transport Canada has recommended the following measures to keep yourself safe, and to avoid putting excess pressure on emergency services, including search and rescue services[6]:

  • Respect the local health authority’s guidelines with respect to the size and make-up of your boating group;
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with other boaters during your recreational trip;
  • Ensure your pleasure craft is properly equipped and in good working order before your excursion;
  • Limit the duration of your trips by departing and returning within the same day;
  • Ensure that all passengers on the boat are wearing approved lifejackets that are properly fitted; and
  • Avoid using your pleasure craft during bad weather and extreme temperatures.

How can McLeish Orlando help?

Accidents happen, even when you follow all of the rules. McLeish Orlando LLP is experienced in cases involving boating accidents and can help you navigate the aftermath of an injury obtained on the water. Contact McLeish Orlando lawyers for a free consultation.

[1] Government of Canada, Speed and Impaired Boating <> accessed 20 June 2020

[2] Ibid.

[3] CTV News Northern Ontario, OPP Issues Boat Safety Tips for National Safe Boating Week (May 17 2020) <> accessed 20 June 2020.

[4] Canadian Safe Boating Council, Safe Boating Awareness Week (2020) <> accessed 20 June 2020.

[5] Canadian Safe Boating Council, Cold Water Awareness <>.

[6] Government of Canada, Guidelines for Pleasure Craft during the COVID-19 Pandemic (2020) <> accessed 20 June 2020.

Alexis Perlman


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