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Oct 24, 2019

Safe WaterwaysWe are so fortunate to live in Canada. With five main ocean watersheds (Canadian Geographic, 2019), over 8,500 named rivers (Statistics Canada, 2016) and home to the most lakes in the world (World Atlas, 2017) – Canada has more than enough opportunities to get on the water & plenty of space to share once out there. 
 
People across our country choose to engage and spend time on the water in many different ways – from power boating to sailing, paddling to swimming. Many different variables can dictate the way we engage with our waterways – location, leisure time, community and disposable income, to name a few. 
 
Not everyone is able to go “boating” in the more traditional sense – powerboat or sailboat. One of the most common reasons expressed, especially from youth, is that boating is inherently an expensive past time… the popular saying: “a boat is a hole in the water into which one pours money” exists for a reason. It’s clear that removing barriers to inclusion and recognizing the importance of other vessel options for accessing our waterways is very important.
 
As we begin to understand our waterways as both a shared backyard that we all enjoy, but as a collective must make joint efforts to protect; the more people who experience time on the water, sustainably and safely, the better. Not only does it lead to a stronger community of people passionate about our waterways for leisure – it can be integral in the vital protection of these waterways so that current and future generations can continue to live, work and play on them as we are fortunate enough to do.
 
However, as always – safety must be the top priority for all involved, including wildlife.
 
CPS-ECP can play a pivotal role in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for waterway users to spend time safely on the water – no matter their choice of vessel. Paddling is a wonderful activity and not only is it environmentally friendly, but it is deeply ingrained in Canadian heritage (Paddle Canada). As an organization that represents Canadians on the water – this is a very important community to welcome, support and make aware of opportunities for courses and seminars. 
 
Currently, although Transport Canada recognizes human-powered watercraft (sailboats, paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, rowboats, etc.) as “pleasure craft” vessels, if they are not fitted with a motor - operators do not need proof of competency. They are required to have certain safety equipment on board (Small Vessel Regulations & Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide) and encouraged to take a Boating Safety Course.
 
Without undertaking an approved Boating Safety course, there can be significant risks to all waterways users. Until it is mandatory for all vessels to complete – as members of the CPS-ECP, we can do several things: (1) Review the “Rules of the Road” and Collision Regulations from Transport Canada to ensure our actions are in accordance and respectful to other waterway users; (2) Speak to our fellow Squadron Members, Yacht Clubs, and Community members to ensure communal actions are safe; (3) Speak to non-motorized Pleasure Craft Users that you meet on the water or in your community to make them aware of the value to themselves, their friends/families and other waterway users of undertaking a Boating Safety Course. Ideally, with encouragement, they will take their PCOC (register online at www.cps-ecp.ca/pcoc) through CPS-ECP and potentially become a member. It would be wonderful to diversify our membership to represent the range of waterway vessels.
 
However, the most important outcome is for them to complete a course or at least review the resources that are widely available for free. Let’s all continue working to ensure all waterway users are made aware of how to enjoy our shared backyard sustainably and safely – I encourage you to never underestimate the power of a friendly conversation. Let’s work towards reducing risks to one another, sharing our waterways and ensuring that when we meet out on the water, it is with nothing but a friendly wave of the hand. 

Explore all other courses that CPS-ECP has to offer here.

Jennifer Pate, BA, MSc.
Website: www.jenniferpate.com