In Canada, most types of boats are required to carry Canadian-approved pyrotechnic flares or electronic visual distress signal devices (eVDSD) as mandatory equipment in The Canada Shipping Act.
Five-year old pyrotechnic flares may be kept for backup if they are stored properly. Store this type of signal in a labelled waterproof container or ziploc bag in a cool, dry location. The chemicals in the flares break down over time causing them to misfire and injure anyone nearby. Remember that it's illegal to fire a flare if there is no emergency. Keep away from children - they can kill!
Flares are considered to be hazardous material and must be disposed of the same as explosives and fireworks (check municipal services). It is illegal to burn off expired flares, and they are not accepted at landfill sites, or by police or fire departments. Contact marinas, the manufacturer, or the store where you bought them to enquire about collection programs.
A new standard for electronic visual distress signals called eVDSD is accepted by Transport Canada for pleasure craft. The new industry standard for equipment is RTCM13200, developed by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). In November 2021, Transport Canada agreed that an eVDSD meeting RTCM13200 standard, when accompanied with a smoke signal, would meet the requirements for distress signalling for Canadian Pleasure craft. RTCM13200 technical details: