There are many laws that govern boating in Ontario and Canada. These laws range from federal statute to provincial regulations. In this article, I have compiled a list of the most significant laws that boaters are likely to encounter in their day to day use of a pleasure craft.
Operating a vessel in a dangerous manner
The criminal code section 249(1)(b) makes it illegal to operate a vessel or water skis, surf board, water sled or other towed objects in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regards to all circumstances, including the nature and condition of those waters or sea and the use that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be made of this waters or sea.
Essentially, you have to operate your vessel in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances. For example: You would likely be committing an offence under this section if you were to drive your boat at very high speeds in an area close to shore where swimmers are clearly present.
Consuming drugs and alcohol while operating a vessel and boating while impaired.
The criminal code makes it illegal to operate a boat while impaired or if the alcohol in your blood exceeds the set legal limit. I have written a separate post on impaired boating that you can visit. Keep in mind that in Ontario, the provincial offences act also speaks to the topic of drinking while on a boat. You can learn more about the liquor license act of Ontario as it relates to boating by following the link.
Towing water skiers without a watch and after dark
If you decide to tow someone behind you, whether they are on water skis, surf board, water sled or an other object, you must have a person onboard your vessel keeping watch on the person being towed and the person keeping watch must be responsible. If you don’t comply with this you will be committing a crime under section 250 of the criminal code.
Further to this section, the criminal code also forbids the towing of any person or object after dark. Dark is described as being one hour after sunset to sunrise.
The small vessel regulation also speaks to the rules you have to follow if you decide to tow someone behind your vessel on water or in the air. The rules set out are as follows.
-you need to have seating on the vessel to accommodate every person being towed.
-you need to have a person keeping watch and communicating with the operator.
-You must not tow anyone in any period where there is reduced visibility or after dark which again is described as one hour after sunset and ending at sunrise.
-You must not tow yourself behind a vessel that is operated by remote control.
-You must not operate a propeller driven surfboard type vessel.
Failure to stop at the scene of a collision
Section 252(1) of the criminal code makes it a crime to leave the scene of an accident for the purpose of escaping civil or criminal liability prior to giving your name, address and in the case where someone is injured, offering assistance.
Sending a false distress signal
Section 372(1) of the criminal makes it illegal to send information that you know is false, or cause such information to be sent by letter or an means of telecommunication with intent to injure or alarm a person.
Section 9(1)(a) of the radio communication act states that no person shall knowingly send, transmit or cause to be sent or transmitted any false or fraudulent distress signal, message, call or radiogram of any kind.
Operating an unseaworthy vessel
Section 251(1) of the criminal code makes it a crime for anyone to endangers someones life by operating a vessel that is registered or licensed, or for which an identification number has been issued pursuant to any act of parliament knowing that it is unseaworthy. This applies to operation anywhere in Canada or out, or from any place from the united states to Canada.
Tying up to a buoy
It is illegal to tie a vessel or boat to a signal , buoy or other sea-mark that is used for purposes of navigation. This is covered in the Criminal code under section 439(1).
Operating a vessel while disqualified/prohibited
It is illegal to operate a vessel if you have been prohibited from doing so. An example of this would be if you have in the past been convicted of impaired boating or dangerous operation. the courts can imposed a driving prohibition against you for a set period of time. Section 259 of the criminal code makes it a crime for you to then operate a vessel knowing that you are prohibited.
To conclude, there are many other laws that apply to boating. I have listed the laws that in my view are the most applicable to activities you will encounter on a pleasure craft. Please visit the specific statute or regulation if you wish to read the full sections yourself.