Safe Boating Awareness Week (May 20 – 26)


​Respecting Water and Staying Safe​

​​A message from Dr. Kelsey Louie, Acting Deputy Chief Medical Officer; and Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi, Senior Medical Officer​​

Safe Boating Awareness Week is an annual public health event in Canada because, while boating can be one of summer's most enjoyable activities, it can also be one of the most dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. According to the Canadian Red Cross, about 400 people die every year in Canada due to preventable water-related injuries, mainly drowning.

As the use of boats – whether for recreation/leisure or fishing/livelihood or even travel/passenger-only purposes – has always been a major part of life for many First Nations people, knowledge of safe boating measures is especially important.

For several centuries before the arrival of Europeans, First Nations people of the lands now known as British Columbia (BC) used mega-sized Haida canoes, snexwílh (Squamish), kwitn (Mi'kmaq), cîmân (Cree), and many other types of watercrafts to navigate through the coastal waters, rivers, and lakes. Today, due in part to the remote location of many First Nations communities, with lakes, rivers, and oceans providing food as well as transportation, boating remains an important part of First Nations lifestyles.

“Growing up as I have by the ocean, I've always had great respect for the water, for all it gives us – and I know how powerful and dangerous it can be," says Margaret Wagner of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations in Tofino on Vancouver Island. In 2022, while being transported by boat for her work, she and several other passengers were in a terrible accident involving heavy fog and a faulty GPS. She is now in a wheelchair. “I still respect the water, but I want everyone to remember that we can't control nature or the weather, and accidents can happen at any time. It's just so important to always be aware of the dangers."

Here are some key considerations to ensure everyone comes home safely from boating:

  • Wear a lifejacket at all times while you are in the boat. Research shows that 80+ percent of people who drown while boating were not wearing their lifejackets. It is important to buy a lifejacket that you are comfortable in, and to keep it on at all times whenever you are using your boat on the water.
  • Ensure the boat operator is knowledgeable about boat safety and operation, experienced, and aware of his/her responsibility for the safety of themselves and others.
  • Notify others that you are going out on the boat, and the general area you might be travelling.
  • Remember that cold water can severely impact your ability to swim or even to just stay afloat.
  • Never use alcohol or cannabis if you are operating the boat, as these will impair your ability to do so safely and as driving a vehicle, including a boat, while under the influence is illegal. (Note that even some prescription medications can impair your ability, e.g., those with side effects such as drowsiness.)
  • If you are operating a powerboat, your boat safety equipment must be in proper working condition. The required equipment includes: a personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket for each person on board; a buoyant line (15 meters in length); a manual propelling device (a paddle); an anchor with at least 15 meters of rope cable or chain, bailer, or hand pump; a sound-signaling device; navigation lights; a fire extinguisher; a flashlight; and flares.

For more information please visit these sites:

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