Canada Boating Regulations and Laws

Below you will find the Canadian competency requirements that apply to operators of a pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes.

Proof of competency

The Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) is an official proof of competency that demonstrates a boater has taken and passed an approved boater safety course. With the PCOC, boaters are eligible to operate a pleasure craft in Canada and can rest assured they have the necessary knowledge and skills to do so safely. Obtaining the PCOC requires studying the approved course materials from an official provider and passing the official Canadian boating exam.

Age and horsepower restrictions

Under 12 years of age, and not directly supervised*

Can operate a vessel with no more than 10 hp (7.5 KW).

Between 12 years and under 16 years of age, and not directly supervised*

Can operate a vessel with no more than 40 hp (30KW).

Under 16 years of age

Not allowed to operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC).

16 years of age and over

No power restrictions.

*Directly supervised means: accompanied and directly supervised in the boat by a person 16 years of age or older.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) regulations

All watercraft in Canada must have an approved Personal Flotation Device (also known as a life jacket) for each person on board. Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard or Fisheries and Oceans Canada-approved PFDs must bear a label that clearly states approval.

All PFDs must be in good condition and meet the requirements of the Canadian Small Vessel Regulations. It is important that everyone on board is wearing their PFD at all times while out on the water.

Personal watercraft (PWC) regulations

All power-driven vessels and Personal Watercrafts (PWCs) must have a valid Pleasure Craft Operator Card in order to operate legally.

Boating law enforcement in Canada

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), provincial and municipal police forces and other local authorities are responsible for ensuring safety on Canadian waters.

To help ensure compliance with Canada’s boating laws, vessel operators who are required to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) must carry it on board their vessel and have it available for inspection. Failure to have your PCOC on board when it is required can result in fines. Cooperate with enforcement officers to ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

Boat rental laws

Having a Pleasure Craft Operator Card is not required to operate a rented watercraft, but it is strongly recommended. Instead, renters must complete a rental safety checklist in order to operate their rented watercraft.

However, some companies may have made it their corporate policy to require all renters to possess a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. It is important to check with the rental company prior to renting a watercraft to ensure that you are aware of any such policies.

Boat regulations for non-residents

Non-residents visiting Canada must obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card if they are operating a motorized vessel in Canadian waters for more than 45 consecutive days or if the boat they are operating is registered or licensed in Canada (including boat rentals). Boater Education Cards or equivalent certifications are also accepted in Canada.

Obtaining a boat license in different provinces

The Pleasure Craft Operator Card is valid in all provinces across Canada. For more information, see our province pages:

British Columbia boating license

Alberta boating license

Manitoba boating license

Saskatchewan boating license

Ontario boating license

Quebec boating license

Get your card today