OTTAWA — Legislation to crack down on driving or operating other vehicles while impaired would exclude canoeing and paddle-boarding while under the influence, a move that alarms a group promoting safe boating.
Last spring, the federal government introduced a bill to modernize and overhaul laws dealing with the operation of all kinds of vehicles, aircraft and vessels after drinking or taking drugs.
The move was spurred by the federal plan to legalized recreational marijuana use by July next year.
The bill's definition of a vessel specifically excludes those propelled "exclusively by means of muscular power.''
8.6 million boats in Canada
Police have used the currently understood legal definition of a vessel to lay charges for impaired boating involving non-motorized craft.
The Canadian Safe Boating Council says there were at least 375 deaths in suspected or confirmed cases involving alcohol and unpowered vessels such as canoes and rafts in Canada from 1991 to 2010.
Of the approximately 8.6 million boats in use in Canada, about 60 per cent of these are human-powered vessels, the council adds.
The vessel thing just kind of gets lost in the shuffle.John Gullick, Canadian Safe Boating Council chairman
Representatives of the volunteer-run council recently told the House of Commons justice committee that they want the federal bill amended to include all water-going vessels.
Incidents involving paddlers —such as collisions and capsizings— can endanger the lives of others in the boat as well as rescuers, the organization says.
"We just think a vessel is a vessel is a vessel, and you shouldn't exclude 60 per cent of the vessels on the water from these regulations,'' council chairman John Gullick said in an interview.
He noted that much of the committee hearing focused on impaired driving. "The vessel thing just kind of gets lost in the shuffle.''
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