Canada Boating Laws and Regulations

Age and Operator Restrictions

These age and horsepower restrictions from the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations (VORRs) apply to any person who operates a pleasure craft for recreational purposes in Canadian waters.

Persons under 16 years of age are prohibited from operating a pleasure craft that is above these specified horsepower limits.

  • Persons under 12 years of age who are not directly supervised by a person 16 years of age or older may only operate a pleasure craft propelled by a motor of no more than 10 hp (7.5 kW).
  • Persons at least 12 years of age but under 16 years of age who are not directly supervised by a person 16 years of age or older may only operate a pleasure craft propelled by a motor of no more than 40 hp (30 kW).

Only persons 16 years of age or older may operate a personal watercraft (PWC) without supervision.

The above age restrictions do not apply in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Proof of Competency

In Canada, all persons who operate a pleasure craft must carry proof of competency on board if the pleasure craft has any type of motor, including an electric trolling motor, and is used for recreational purposes. Not carrying your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) when one is required can result in a fine. A variety of documents may serve as proof of competency.

  • A Pleasure Craft Operator Card that you receive after passing a boating safety course approved by the Department of Transport or…
  • Proof that you passed a boating safety course in Canada before April 1, 1999, or…
  • A certificate from the List of Certificates approved by the Department of Transport or…
  • A completed safety checklist for a rented boat—good only while the boat is rented.

The only exception is persons operating a pleasure craft in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.

Enforcement

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and municipal police forces, and other local authorities enforce the boating laws of Canada to make your boating experience safe and pleasant. Cooperate with them by following the laws and guidelines.

Carry the Card: Vessel operators who are required to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card must carry the card on board the vessel and have it available for inspection by an enforcement officer.

Penalty: Not carrying your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) when one is required can result in a fine.

Reciprocity

All provinces, territories, and states that have mandatory boater education requirements will accept the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). Likewise, Canada will accept boating education cards that are issued by states that meet NASBLA requirements as proof of competency. (This is known as “reciprocity.”)

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Frequently Asked Questions