Boating Laws

This summary is provided only as a convenience. Please use our governments directory to find current information about regulations and laws.

Contravention Act is a federal act adopted by most provinces which is enforced by local police, RCMP and Coast Guard using on-the-water tickets and fines. More below...

Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations (VORR) allow a local authority to ask the federal government to restrict any pleasure craft or commercial vessel on all bodies of water in Canada. Restrictions are based on engine type and power, not vessel size. (Governments Directory Transport Canada, Justice Canada)

Boat Operator By September 2009, all boat operators will need PCOC or other proof of competency to operate any boat with motor. [Operator card (PCOC)] .

Boat licensing, registration Licenses for boats are regulated by Transport Canada through Services Canada. Trailers are licensed by provincial vehicle license bureaus. [Boat licensing, registration]

Compliance Plates & Labels
November 2007: Pleasure craft, fitted with or capable of being fitted with engine(s) will no longer require a Single Vessel Label. For more information on pleasure craft regulations, please see Transport Canada's Office of Boating Safety. Manufacturer's compliance notice program will continue to be in effect. [Government directory]

Boat equipment Federal regulations enforce required equipment on water craft from canoes to ships. [Mandatory boat equipment]

Marine radios Ship's radio licences, normally required under Canadian regulations, may be waived in some cases. To transmit using a VHF radio, you must have a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator's Certificate (ROC). [VHF Radio | Government directory: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada]

Speed Limits In most provinces there is a 10 kph speed limit within 30 metres (100 feet) from shore. Fine is $125, with maximum fine $500 or six months imprisonment. (Canada Shipping Act: Boating Restriction Regulations) [Boat Speed]

Customs & Immigration The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) controls all border crossings. [Entering Canada | Entering the U.S. ]

Whales Regulations Regulations to protect whales, saving entangled whales

Acts and Regulations

Government Directory: Canada, Provinces, U.S.A.

Federal Laws

Transport Canada (TC) is responsible for commercial navigation, harbours and ports, ship safety and pilotage, crown corporations, and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) (moved 1996 to the Fisheries and Oceans, back to Transport Canada in 2004) has responsibility for pleasure craft, search and rescue, receiver of wrecks, and pollution preparedness and response.

May 2007: The federal government's new regulations prohibit dumping of sewage, garbage or oily bilge water, and all boats with a toilet will require an approved sewage sanitation device or holding tank. Older ships that only travel in Canada have five years to comply. [Federal regulations for Holding Tanks]

This is a summary provided only as a convenience. Information may be out of date. Please use official governments sites for current information about regulations and send your queries to them. Email Pat with corrections to this page.

Provincial Laws

Provinces are responsible for fishing regulations and fishing licences, alcohol use, driving a boat while intoxicated, and environmental pollution, and invasive marine life. Governments Directory: Provincial & Territorial governments

The Contraventions Act

With the introduction of the Contraventions Act in 1996, many offences that were previously listed under the Criminal Code of Canada, now result in fines instead of criminal charges.

The Small Vessel Regulations section on "Careless Operation" reads, "No person shall operate a small vessel in a careless manner without due care or without reasonable consideration for other persons." An operator can be charged with Careless Operation, if, as a result of excess speed, their wash adversely affects a number of water activities such as docks, shoreline and an anchorage. You are responsible for any damage or discomfort your boat causes to wildlife, people, objects and the shoreline.

2004: British Columbia adopted the Contraventions Act into provincial law on June 28, 2004 and hope to have it fully implemented by April 2005. There are over 2,000 regulations from a number of statutes captured under the Act, which allows for enforcing offences under provincial ticketing schemes. In BC these will be enforced under the Offence Act Violation Ticket scheme.

1996: The federal government's Contraventions Act came into effect. Law enforcement officials can issue tickets and fines for offences under the Transport Canada Small Vessels Regulations or the Boating Restriction Regulations. Typical offenses include failing to carry required safety equipment or committing other infractions on the water. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island adopted it as law. The Coast Guard expect B.C., Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Yukon, Nunavut, and N.W.T. to adopt it in 2000. Quebec was not expected to regulate boaters for safety issues.

Sample of fines (1996):

Reference: Canadian Coast Guard 1-800-267-6687


New regulations include wakes, ski boards, bare-foot skiing, tubes, and surfboarding. Tow boats must have room for driver, spotter AND the person(s) being towed (a 3-seat PWC is minimum) and towing is not permitted at night.


Boats without mufflers installed and connected are not permitted within 5 miles of shore (updated Mar/03). Engine blowers must be operated for at least 4 minutes before starting a gas engine - proper fuelling procedures are now mandatory.


The RCMP, CCG, and local Police are all empowered to write traffic tickets for many boating offenses such as a broad "careless operation" and not having mandatory safety equipment on board.

Public input:

Canadian sailing and boating groups suggested the Act should include infractions for right of way rules and other offenses of speeding and not keeping a proper lookout.

December 1996:

Ontario was the first province in Canada to introduce on-the-spot ticketing and fines for boaters contravening regulations issued under the Canada Shipping Act and the Department of Transport Act. The regulations were published in the Canada Gazette, Vol. 130, No. 14 and list some 200 rules to be followed. The justification for these regulations include decriminalize some federal offences, keep offenses out of courts, improve enforcement.

This is a summary provided only as a convenience. Information may be out of date. Please use official governments sites for current information about regulations and send your queries to them. Email Pat with corrections to this page.