Gone Outdoors

Boating Rules & Regulations in the Province of Quebec

by Tami Parrington

The Province of Quebec developed boating laws in order to protect people and the environment. The laws ensure safe boating and keep the water clean and enjoyable for everyone. In 1999, licensing became mandatory. Each boater must take and pass a safe boating course in order to operate a boat.


The safe boating course covers all of the required licensing you need for your boat. The Province of Quebec issues registrations numbers you must display on both sides of your boat's bow along with registration stickers. Each province has its own sticker and numbers so you need to register with Quebec if you move or bring a new boat into the area.


The licensing course also includes what safety features you must have aboard your vessel. These include proper PFDs (personal flotation devices), flares, horns or whistles, fire extinguishers and lights. If you are missing any of these you may be fined and/or have to turn back and leave the water.


All of the waterways in the Province of Quebec, including lakes and rivers, have markings and buoy systems to keep you on course and away from dangerous areas. You must know how to read the signs to stay safe.

Exiting or Entering

Anyone planning on entering Canadian waters must understand the immigration and customs laws. Even visitors should take the Canadian version of the safe boating course so all issues regarding border crossing are clear. Canadians entering the U.S. are subject to the same restrictions and should take the state course for their destination.

VHF Radio

A marine VHF radio may save your life in serious situations. However, pleasure boaters must have a license to operate a VHF radio. To get your license you have to learn the phonetic alphabet and understand radio procedures. Failure to comply with Canadian VHF radio procedures will result in fines or imprisonment. After studying you must take a test with a qualified examiner.


Operating a boat while drinking alcohol is just as dangerous as drinking and driving a car. In fact, the exposure to the elements and dehydration common from a day on the water increases the effect of alcohol consumption. DUI laws passed by the federal and provincial government apply to boating. As of August 2005, impaired boating is a criminal offense. Also, boats without permanent sleeping, cooking and sanitation facilities may not have open alcohol aboard the vessel. People on such boats may drink alcohol only when at anchor or docked, never on open water.

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