As you may or may not know, Transport Canada puts stand-up paddleboards (SUP) in the same classification as canoes and kayaks so they are technically required to carry the same gear which includes PFD’s, heaving line, etc. You can see the full list here.

Of course, being safe is a good thing but much of the required gear just isn’t practical in SUP and could even be potentially dangerous in surf (eg. PFD’s).

With that in mind, a grassroots movement started last year to get Transport Canada and in particular, Canadian Marine Advisory Council (CMAC) to recognize the use of board leashes in place of a PFD.

In response, Transport Canada recently released a statement clarifying their policy on required safety gear and it seems to be a good compromise. Transport Canada decided to follow the lead of the US Coast Guard and said that as long as you are paddling within the surf zone, you are not required to carry all the gear which also includes a PFD. That being said, they did go on to say that if you are using your SUP for navigation (group crossing or solo outing) then the regular rules are in place.

The thing to keep in mind with the change is that if you decide to paddle around the headland back to the parking lot then you are no longer surfing and thus in line for a ticket if caught without all the required safety gear. Stories of this type of enforcement have been trickling out of popular surf breaks in California over the last year.

Russ Garing, SUP Standup Paddle Boarder.  Surfing at Morro Rock in Big Winter Waves, Morro Bay, CA 11 Dec 2009.;

On the surface the clarification from Transport Canada seems to be a good compromise as it solves the real concern about putting paddlers surfing in danger due to a PFD (They could be in greater danger as a PFD doesn’t allow them to duck dive under an incoming wave when swimming).

I know that the compromise won’t make some people in the SUP community totally happy, but here is the problem from Transport Canada’s perspective as I see it. They have a hard enough time trying to convince everybody just to bring a PFD (let alone wear it) when in a boat that it really confuses the message to say it’s ok for one type of vessel but not the other. As far as I know all recreational, human powered vessels are required to carry a PFD except in a competitive match.

As far as the other requirements that SUPs are also required to carry (heaving line, etc.) a simple thing would be to reclassify SUPs and put them into the same category as sail or kite boards. In that classification, as long as you are wearing your lifejacket, you only need to carry a whistle.

I heard through the grape vine that Transport Canada is look into making the change and hopefully that will happen soon.

Thoughts, comments? Post them below.

Top Photo Credit: SUP Devin (1/13/09) / Steve Corey / CC BY-NC 2.0

Bottom Photo Credit: Russ Garing, SUP Standup Paddle Boarder. Surfing at Morro Rock in Big Winter Waves, Morro Bay, CA 11 Dec 2009. / Mike Baird / CC BY 2.0

Published in Safety

Transport Canada LogoOf course my prediction yesterday was way off but the announcement was great news non-the-less for canoe and kayak instructor/guides across Canada.

Today in Calgary, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable Chuck Strahl announced that effective immediately canoes, kayaks and small sailing vessels will be exempt from commercial vessel registration. This is good news for both non-profit and commercial operators.

According to the press release on the announcement:

Owners of human-powered vessels, such as canoes, kayaks and small sailing vessels, as well as small vessels with motors less than 7.5 kilowatts (10 horsepower) will not have to register their craft with Transport Canada.

"We do not believe Canadian boaters should face onerous regulations to go canoeing and kayaking, which is why registration requirements for all human-powered vessels, small sailing vessels and small motorized vessels will not be required," said Minister Strahl.

This registration will continue to be required for commercial river rafts, government vessels and for any vessels where registration is necessary for safety reasons.

The other new small vessel regulations are still in effect which we have talked about before a couple of times.

This is great news. I will post more updates as I get them.

Update: Tony Palmer, friend of the site and owner of the Calgary paddling shop Undercurrents, was there at the announcement and was able to have a quick conversation with the Minister after the announcement and specifically mentioned that it was the well reasoned emails that really caused the change. Way to go to all of "us"!

Published in Issues

I just got word that Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable Chuck Strahl will be in Calgary on Thursday, March 17, 2011 to make an announcement related to small vessel regulations and canoe/kayak registration.

There is no word on what the announcement could be but as somebody who loves to follow Apple product rumours and personally making poor predictions as to what the iPhone 5 will feature, I’m going to go out in a limb and give an educated guess.

Here it is: I predict that they are going to announce a freeze in the implementation of the new regulations across the board while Transport Canada is tasked to amend the regulations to make them clearer for everbody.

Here are my reasons why I think this will happen:

  1. We all know there is a pretty much a 100% chance that an election will take place this spring and I will guess a conversation took place in the Minister office along the lines of this:

“Sir, the press are asking questions about people not being allowed to go canoeing this summer!”

“Oh no, tell them that isn’t our intention. We love people out paddling.”

“But Sir, we have an election coming up. What if it becomes an issue and somebody starts asking questions at one of our town hall meetings along the election trail?”

“Yikes! Ok, freeze the whole thing. We will sort it out after the election.”

  1. The Minister addressed the issue to the press back on February 24th. At the time he mentioned fixing the “ambiguous legislation” and it was never the intention that Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and other non-profit groups get caught up in the commercial regulations.

That was only three weeks ago. If they are making an announcement this fast, there is no way they would have been able to make the significant changes required to clear the confusion and controversy surrounding the regulations. Maybe but highly unlikely.

The only other possible announcement that I can see is that they will exempt Girl Guides and Scouts from the regulations and vessel registration. That would be fairly easy to implement as they could make an amendment to exempt the two groups from it. The only problem with specifically exempting them only is that it doesn’t really address the perception that joe public, church or non-profit youth groups will be forced to register before going out on a camping trip.

In an election year, public perception has soured election results in the past and keeping everybody happy really is the key. Between now and ballot day you can bet that everyone will be walking on egg shells and it’s much easier just to put a freeze on it for now and sort it out later.

Could I be wrong? Probably, we will see tomorrow but to not guess would take the fun out of it!


Update: Did Canada's Minister of Industry, Tony Clement hint to MooseFM today that the whole thing is dead in the water? Maybe. Though 99.5 MooseFM isn't exactly known for their hard hitting investigative journalism, there is a quick snippet of an interview he did on local television recently. He says that nothing is going to go through and the regulations are all going to change.

Published in Issues

Transport Canada Clarifies New Regulations

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 14:53

Transport Canada LogoLast Friday the Toronto Star wrote an article about the new Transport Canada regulations that effect instructors, leaders and guides who are on the water in canoes and kayaks.

The article focuses on the confusion that many Canadian paddlers are having with the new regulations and the fact that Transport Canada has yet to come out with some definitive guidelines and steps on if you need to register and how to do it.

All the media attention finally made Transport Canada publicly respond and clarify several items including the perceived notion that they are trying to hinder people from getting out on the water.

Published in Industry Stuff

Back in the fall of 2010 Transport Canada formally released an update to their small vessel regulations which; for the first time in a long time impacts canoe and kayaks.

Transport Canada Logo

The most controversial element of the new regulations centers around the idea that any type of paid or volunteer leadership on the water (including teaching or guiding) is now deemed as a commercial venture. This, "Guided Excursion" means that your canoe or kayak now falls under the commercial regulations for small vessels which includes commercial vessel registration.

I will be honest with you. Since the announcement I have seen some of the most ridiculous posts by people on canoeing forums. Post by people who know nothing about the regulations but still very willing to tell the world how Paddle Canada and Transport Canada are destroying our canoeing heritage.

I will admit that when Transport Canada announced the changes there were lots of questions to be answered as the regulations are very vague and open to a lot of interpretation. To help understand them better I worked with several other Paddle Canada Program Development Committee volunteers to go through and sort out what everything means. It took a while to sort through which included many, many calls and emails with Transport Canada representatives but I think we created a good summary document with an FAQ that is posted on the Paddle Canada website.

Even though there is still some uncertainty about some areas here is what I know for sure:

Published in Issues

Judge using his gavel. Flickr Photo Credit: IXQUICK

The Canadian Department of Justice just released an update to their Small Vessel Regulations. For those who don’t regularly dabble in the weird world of maritime laws, the pdf Small Vessel Regulations are the rules around equipment and safety for commercial boats operating in Canada.

For the most part these regulations don’t affect Canadian paddlers (outside of the Coast Guard required equipment like PFD’s, bailer, etc.) as it’s viewed as a recreational activity. Things do change though when you are participating in what they call a “guided excursion”.

Published in Industry Stuff

New Website: I Speak for Canadian Rivers

Friday, 08 August 2008 08:03

I Speak for Canadian Rivers LogoAs reported a couple months ago, we looked at the issue surrounding the rewriting of the Navigable Waters Protection Act by Transport Canada.

This is a very serious issue that affects all paddlers across Canada. Transport Canada would like to eliminate the developer's obligation to consider impacts on navigation when building dams, bridges, causeways and other invasive structures.

The new law will ignore all whitewater rivers, all seasonal waterways and all vessels with less than a one-metre draft. This is a direct assault on Canada's tradition of river travel and the future health of our waterways by the same people who are supposed to protect both. It is a fundamental breach of public trust.

Published in Environment
I just got word from friend of the site, Tony Palmer of Undercurrents, a paddling shop in Calgary. He made me aware an incoming issue that affects all Canadian paddlers.

Transport Canada announced earlier this May to stakeholders their intention to review the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). For those who didn't know this act exists, it is one of the oldest pieces of federal legislation; passed in 1882...
Published in Issues
White Water Rafting Yesterday the Transport Canada announced changes to the Special-purpose Vessels Regulations and the Vessel Operation Restriction.

There are two major changes:

The first one affects the white water rafting industry. They now have specific requirements for all river rafting companies to have vessel and safety equipment standards such as helmets, lifejackets and their equivalents, and the circumstances in which they must be worn; operational standards such as first aid training, familiarization trips and safety briefings; and the maintenance of detailed records of each excursion...

Published in Issues
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, today announced the coming into force of the Special-purpose Vessels Regulations and the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations. These regulations are made under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (CSA 2001).
Published in Press Releases

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