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Young Canadian boaters must be licensed

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As the boating season revs into high gear, young boaters are reminded that under a new law passed at the beginning of this year, they are now required to obtain a licence to operate a motorboat on Canadian waters.

The new law, which will affect all boaters under the age of 16, is intended to improve operator proficiency, and reduce accidents amongst young boaters and inexperienced ones.

Boaters can receive their new licence in several ways. They can pay $20 for a home study manual and then pay an additional $30 for a challenge exam (they may take the exam without the course) or they may take an in-class course for $80.

Those interested in more information can contact Joyous Bragg at Visser Auto & Truck Accessories at 807-482-2856. Bragg said they have yet to have set up a course, which requires a minimum of 10 people, in this area.

Proof of competency can take one of three forms. A young boater must show proof of having taken a boating safety course prior to April 1 of this year or obtain a pleasure craft operator card from a Canadian Coast Guard accredited course provider following a test. They may also complete a rental-boat safety checklist (for power-driven rental boats).

The operator card is considered good-for-life and boaters can obtain their card after receiving a mark of at least 75 percent on a Canadian Coast Guard accredited test after having completed an accredited course. Boaters also have the option of completing this test without first completing the course.

Several changes were made with the safety regulations:

•The minimum age for operating a personal water craft (Sea-Doo, Wave runner, etc.) will be 16 years of age;

•All power boat operators born after April 1, 1983 must carry proof of competency in their craft by September, 15, 1999;

•All operators of power boats under 4 m (approx. 14 feet) in length, including personal water craft, must carry proof of competency by September 15, 2002;

•All operators of power boats must carry proof of competency by September 15, 2009.

While the new rules have been planned to be phased in over the next 10 years, those boaters aged 55 and over were to be originally exempt from the new law.

But the federal government has since decided against exempting boaters over that age, citing age discrimination concerns. Under the original proposal, anyone over 55 would be exempted. The age exemption was dropped during the consultation stage because it may have been deemed discriminatory under the Charter of Rights.

The changes were designed to help decrease the number of accidents and fatalities on Canadian waters. About 200 deaths and 6,000 accidents are reported each year.

“These are not made-in-Ottawa solutions,’ said Minister of Fisheries and Oceans minister David Anderson. “They result from an extensive process of dialogue with Canadians who share an interest in making our waters safer. These individuals are the real architects of these common-sense and balanced measures.

“Right now, anyone of any age can operate any boat of any size without any formal training or experience,” he added. “In fact, two-thirds of those operating powered boats in Canada lack any formal training in boating safety or operation. With more and more boaters taking to the waterways in new, and increasingly powerful vessels, the status quo is clearly a recipe for disaster.”

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