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e-2466 (Transportation)

Initiated by Cara McNulty from Stittsville, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Minister of Transport

  • Boating accounts for more than one-third of immersion/drowning deaths in Canada, and has been the most frequent activity among 10,000 immersion/drowning deaths during the past two decades;
  • Not wearing a lifejacket/Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is the number one reason for drownings in boating related fatalities in all age categories above 0-4;
  • The Small Vessel Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act only require that a proper sized PFD for each passenger be on board a vessel;
  • Wearing a lifejacket/PFD is not a requirement, not even for children, and this regulation does little to protect Canada’s children on our nation’s lakes, rivers and oceans; and
  • Canada is significantly behind the United States and other Western jurisdictions that have mandatory wear laws and regulations in place.
We, the undersigned, citizens or residents of Canada, call upon the Minister of Transport to amend the Small Vessel Regulations to make it mandatory for children under the age of 14 to wear a lifejacket/PFD while passengers in (or drivers of) small vessels covered under Parts 2,3 and 4 of the regulation.

Response by the Minister of Transport

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Marc Garneau

Transport Canada (TC) acknowledges receipt of Petition 431-00186, calling upon the Minister of Transport to amend the Small Vessel Regulations (the Regulation) to make it mandatory for children under the age of 14 to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket while passengers in (or operators of) small vessels covered under Parts 2, 3 and 4 of the Regulation.

TC acknowledges that wearing a PFD or lifejacket while boating significantly increases the chances of survival and is one of the best ways of ensuring a boater’s safety on the water. TC focuses its initiatives on improving educational activities to increase boating safety knowledge among Canadians. TC’s Office of Boating Safety was recently expanded to further support public engagement and collaborative work with safety partner organizations. These activities will advance knowledge of boating safety issues, best practices, and behaviours for both recreational and small commercial vessels. The importance of wearing lifejackets will continue to be central to these educational initiatives.

Educating the public about the importance of wearing a lifejacket and encouraging their use by providing safe, affordable, and comfortable options are key in preventing drownings. TC is also conducting policy work to explore options to address the mandatory wearing of PFDs or lifejackets through potential regulatory amendments. The issue of regulating mandatory wear has not been explored since the Small Vessel Regulations were substantially updated over 10 years ago. As such, additional analysis and consultation on the issue is currently underway to assist in determining how regulatory initiatives could be used to supplement educational outreach initiatives and prevent boating-related fatalities. TC is also examining international approaches to mandatory wear to help inform any potential regulatory amendments.

Given the large geographic area where boating activities occur in Canada, enforcement of recreational boating requirements is limited in many areas of the country. As such, any regulatory amendments would need to be supported by continued education and behavioural insights to support enforcement efforts. To assist with this, TC has tasked a behavioural scientist with conducting a research project on the issue of mandatory wear. The initial part of this project will begin later this summer. Overall, this project is intended to help fill gaps in existing research and data by providing insights on wear rates and justification for wearing or not wearing a PFD/lifejacket. In the future, the project will assess the effectiveness of various types of messaging to promote PFD/lifejacket use among different demographics.

TC is taking all of these factors (e.g., Canada’s vast geography, available enforcement resources, demographics and age groups deemed most at risk, public perceptions towards PFD and lifejacket usage, and international examples) into account in developing options to require mandatory wear for specific age groups, such as children under a certain age, or during specific activities. TC will begin consulting with Canadians on these options this summer through its Let’s Talk Transportation website, which can be found at: Input received on these options, and the issue of mandatory wear in general, will inform potential regulatory amendments.

TC will continue to provide updates on this ongoing work and looks forward to discussing the findings in greater detail with stakeholders and the general public during the upcoming consultations, as well as through regularly scheduled meetings of the Canadian Marine Advisory Council, available at: and other fora.

Open for signature
March 13, 2020, at 5:02 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 12, 2020, at 5:02 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Pierre Poilievre (Carleton)
May 13, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00186)
Government response tabled
July 20, 2020
Photo - Greg Fergus
Liberal Caucus
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