Boating license requirements Boating laws and regulations Canada

What are the boating license requirements?

As of September 15, 2009, everyone who operates a motorized pleasure craft must carry proof of competency on board, like the boat license, at all times (does not apply to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut). Proof of competency is not required for a pleasure craft without a motor.

Proof of competency can take one of three different forms:

  • A Pleasure Craft Operator Card;
  • Proof, such as a course certificate, that you have successfully completed a boating safety course in Canada before April 1, 1999; or
  • A completed rental boat safety checklist.



May I operate a PWC if I'm 15 years old?

Youth under 16 years of age may not operate boats with motors over certain horsepower limits unless someone 16 years of age or older is in the boat and directly supervising them. Youth under 16 years of age may not operate a personal watercraft (PWC) under any circumstances.

  • Under 12 years of age with no direct supervision, a person may operate a boat with up to 7.5 kW (10 hp);
  • Ages 12 to under 16 with no direct supervision, a person may operate a boat with up to 30 kW (40 hp);
  • Under 16 years of age, regardless of supervision a person may not operate a PWC;
  • 16 years of age or older: no horsepower restrictions

Do I need the boat license if I am not a resident of Canada?

If you are a non-resident visiting Canada with your boat, you are not required to carry proof of competency on board as long as your boat is in Canada for less than 45 consecutive days.

If you do require proof of competency (because the above doesn’t apply or you want to operate a boat licensed or registered in Canada), then you may either show an operator card or similar proof of competency issued by your home state or country, or obtain a Canadian proof of competency. Either way, you must keep proof of residence on board with you at all times.

I already took a navigation course 20 years ago. Do I qualify for an equivalency?

Certificates of competency, training certificates and equivalencies directly pertaining to the operation of a vessel are recognized as proof of competency when operating a boat fitted with a motor that is used for recreational purposes. To obtain the list of those equivalencies, you can contact Transport Canada at 1-800-267-6687 or refer to their website at If you hold any certificate on this list, you need only make sure that you carry your certificate on board. You may carry the original document(s) or a copy of the certificate. 

As for the pleasure craft operator card, the operator must have the original card on board since a copy is not accepted.

What are the possible violations and fines that I may be subject to in Canadian waters?

Here is a list of some boating offences along with the associated fines, according to Transport Canada:

    • Operating vessel if you are under age : $250
    • Failing to have proof of competency on board : $250
    • Failure to have the required pleasure craft licence on board : $250
    • Altering/Defacing/Removing hull serial number : $350
    • Operating a boat in a careless manner, without due care and attention for others : $350
    • Operating human-powered pleasure craft without personal flotation devices or lifejackets of appropriate size for each person on board: $200 + $100 for each PFD or lifejacket missing.