We talked to managers at Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety in the spring of 2013 about updates to the Human Powered Craft Regulations (otherwise known as paddling craft including Stand Up Paddleboards). Here is the summary of that conversation addressing some of our questions. Thanks to Peter Kasurak, Chair of Safety Committee for the work on this.
- SUP Boards: These became popular after the last regulatory review and were therefore not considered by Transport Canada (TC). Regulations are not likely to be reissued in the next 18 months. TC’s general approach is they only come under regulatory control if used “in navigation” and not as a surf board or beach toy. The most important requirement would be that a PFD is required when used “in navigation”, but not as a surf board or at the beach. It was admitted that “navigation” at this point has not been well-defined. Current TC thinking is that SUPs would fall into the same category as sit-on-tops.
- Deletion of paddle or anchor: TC’s approach is that regulations should only be applied to save lives. PFD’s are therefore key. While extra paddles and anchors are good things and may reduce discomfort, TC does not regard them as essential to safeguard life.
- Reboarding device: This would likely apply to big canoes based on freeboard. TC has no firm ideas as to what device would be appropriate, so suggest using your judgement on using something like a rope ladder or a boarding loop. The simple loop was not rejected – but not endorsed either.
- Whistles: There is no change for the requirement for smaller boats.
- Bailers and bilge pumps: This was not meant to exempt standard canoes with manufacturer’s air cells in bow and stern. TC hadn’t thought about WW boats with full flotation (and the fact boaters bail them out by taking them to the riverbank), but in conversation it was mentioned that these also can capsize. TC noted that these regs would be enforced by police of jurisdiction such as the OPP and if someone thought they could convince the police that they were exempt they could try.
- Radar reflectors: The intent was to capture large sea kayaks that go into navigable waters in poor visibility. TC had no precise limits as to what boats this might apply to, but was not thinking of applying this to standard canoes, kayaks or SUPs. Practical limitations of carrying a reflector were recognized. TC is not interested in requiring people who are in shallow shore waters or paddling in clear weather to carry reflectors.
- Flares: Only intended for large kayaks (and possibly big canoes if long enough – over 6 meters). We asked why this equipment was based on size of boat instead of location. TC did not really have a good explanation except that boating regs had historically been based on vessel specs.
Some final points from Transport Canada:
- They do not write regulations to allow for every possible circumstance and would resist writing a bunch of exceptions to general regulations.
- They rely on constabulary discretion in enforcement. They expect individuals exercising reasonable judgement to be able to explain their position to enforcement officials who are also assumed to behave reasonably in evaluating a particular situation.
- Their most important regulation and the one they are most unlikely to make any concession is having one approved PFD per paddler.