With less than a week until the Victoria Day long weekend—the unofficial kick-off to the summer outdoor season—several events are promoting safe boating.

On Tuesday, May 17, Boatsmart Canada—the country’s largest provider of Pleasure Craft Operator Cards—is holding an awareness day at Toronto’s Harbourfront, from 11 AM to 2 PM. Boatsmart president Cameron Taylor, along with local law enforcement representatives, will be on site to discuss how families can stay safe on the water. The program will include safety tips, required equipment, demonstrations on properly fitting a life jacket and Transport Canada’s recent changes to the standardized boating exam.

May 21 to 27 is also North American Safe Boating Awareness Week. Organized by the Canadian Safe Boating Council the goal is promoting safe, enjoyable and educated boating, through five key steps:

  • Wear a life jacket or PFD
  • Don’t drink and boat
  • Take a boating course
  • Be prepared
  • Beware of cold water risks

Safe Boating Awareness Week is actively supported by a number of companies, non-proftis and government agencies including, most recently, the Ontario Conservation Officers Association. “Our members actively enforce the laws regarding safe boating”, says OCOA president Mike Duncan, a conservation officer, angler and boater. “It's the responsibility of every boater to ensure that they enjoy their favourite activity safely.”

More than 100 boating fatalities occur each year in Canada, and another 6,000 operators or passengers suffer non-fatal injuries. While the numbers have declined slightly in recent years, almost all of these deaths are considered preventable. In 85 per cent of boating fatalities the victim was not wearing or properly wearing a lifejacket, and alcohol is involved in about 40 per cent of all boating deaths.

For more information about safety on and around the water, visit the Canadian Safe Boating Council at www.csbc.ca or Transport Canada.