A question for Canadians

I’m curious. Has anyone heard of Transport Canada (now the regulating agency for PFD’s in Canada)issuing a fine to someone who was wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD instead of a Canadian approved one? If so, were they wearing the PFD or just had it on board?


Yes I certainly have heard
that this happens. Its my understanding that US safety approvals are not accepted for PFDS in Canada. That being said its seems reasonable to assume that if you are in Canada the Coast Guard would not accept a US approved PFD as the norm. That being said I paddle in and around our Capital City of St. John’s in Newfoundland and I have never been stopped by the Coast Guard.

seems reasonable?
I’m kind of curious as to why you think it would seem reasonable for them not to accept U.S. (or other non-Canadian) certification.

I suppose it is easier to just say that it needs to meet a certain Canadian standard than to say which foreign standards are okay, or to list which vests meet Canadian standards. It could get kind of complicated otherwise. However, being from south of the border it sounds like kind of a pain in the neck for non-Canadians who are coming to Canada to paddle and who are bringing their gear with them.

American laws and regulations apply to everyone on American soil. Canadian laws and regs to those on Canadian soil. Pretty much standard for any sovereign nation.

I think I read
somewhere that the CCG will accept US certified

PFD’s if an American is visiting and paddling in our waters.I have been checked for gear by Hamilton Harbour police and they never asked about certification. I have been inspected casually by CCG in Georgian Bay(slow driveby) and they seem to be satisfied if you are wearing a good quality PFD and not blocking shipping channels etc.

It’s not something I would worry about too much.


US PFD’s OK in Canada
From the CanadianCoast Guard site;


“Look for a lifejacket or PFD with a label that states it has been approved by:

* Transport Canada;

* Canadian Coast Guard;

* Fisheries and Oceans Canada; or,

* any combination of the above.

Proper care of your flotation device

Foreign visitors to Canada may bring their own flotation device to use as long as it conforms to the laws of their country.”

and minimum required equipment:

"Pleasure craft propelled by oars and pleasure craft 8 m (26’3”) or less in length within sight of navigational marks do not require a compass.

Canoes, kayaks, rowboats and rowing shells less than 6 m (19’8”) in length ^

Personal protection equipment

  1. One (1) Canadian-approved personal flotation device or lifejacket of appropriate size for each person on board

  2. One (1) buoyant heaving line no less than 15 m (49’3”) in length

    Canoes, kayaks, rowboats and rowing shells less than 6 m in length

    Boat safety equipment

  3. One (1) manual propelling device (for more detailed description, refer to the manual propelling device definition)

    Canoes, kayaks, rowboats and rowing shells less than 6 m in length


    An anchor with no less than 15 m (49’3”) of cable, rope or chain in any combination

  4. One (1) bailer


    One (1) manual water pump fitted with or accompanied by sufficient hose to enable a person using the pump to discharge water from the bilge of the vessel over the side of the vessel

    Navigation equipment

  5. A sound-signalling device or a sound-signalling appliance
  6. Navigation lights that meet the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations if the pleasure craft is operated after sunset and before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility

    Note: Radar reflectors are required under certain conditions. "

Man I love those Canadian approved PFD’s
We have some we use for racing that we call our “cheaters” !

They have about six thin layers of close cell foam and a velcro closure so you can get at them.

If you take most of the layers out it is just like wearing a thin light weight vest.

Not that I would ever do anything like that though!

What surprised me, was in a couple of race where we swam they still gave us decent boyancy.


(Name withheld to protect the violator)

PS, I wear my Lotus in open ocean races

You’re OK
I have never heard of anyone being ticketed for this. Also, as was already mentioned, there is a reciprocity agreement.

For years before I found Salus PFD’s, I wore my Lotus’s in Canada (I figured a comfortable PFD was safer, so why wear a boxy one just for the sticker). I was never questioned, stopped, or ticketed. Now, my PFD has a huge maple leaf on the back, so I will stand out when I travel in the USA, I suppose!

been stopped a few times
but they never asked me to take off my PFD to have a look inside (and I doubt they would be allowed to)…

I never had a Canadian approved anyway:

Was wearing a Grabner until it wor out and now own a (bought in US …) Kokatat. My baby boys where wearing Europeen PFDs as there where none available in north america for toddlers that where any good at that time.

I believe, they don’t really care as long as it looks like you’re wearing a proper one.

Color could be an issue
I was told at the store where I buy all of my sailing stuff that if I was doing long races where I might venture into Canadian waters that there were certain colors that weren’t allowed because of visibility issues. I had my eye on a pretty purple thing. Of course, the shopowner could have been misinformed, but it’s hard enough to spot the folks in red, orange & yellow on a big pond and purples, blues & dark greens would be like camo so I went with red.

what’s the difference?
What is different about the Canadian Approval from US Approval?

Also from TC
Although most flotation devices have many similarities, standards to which they are built still vary from country to country. There are a number of reasons for this that will not be discussed here because of their complexity but you will be reassured to know that the Canadian standard for resistance of a PFD fabric to deterioration due to exposure to the elements (including UV rays) are probably the most stringent in the world today.

at least Kokatat
seams to use the higher standarts for both approvals:

all Kokatat PFDs I looked inside so far just got a stamp ‘Canadian coast guard appr…’ on the original US label-that’s one reason I don’t care about mine not having that one…

as for the colours: The standart doesn’t say anything about requirements. They only recommend it should be a highly visible colour in coastal waters. You can buy camouflage vests up here that are approved.

Canadian PFD
Funny, I never even thought about it. I bought a kayak and some gear, a PFD, in B.C. a few years ago and have been using it in the U.S. ever since. It’s a Mustang, made for paddling, but I guess not U.S. approved. What the hell, it’s comfortable.

I’m not Canadian
I canoe trip with my family in Canada every summer. We wear USCG approved PFDs, which are accepted. Of course truth be known after I’ve registered & paid my fees I’ve never seen a ranger in the interior of a Provincial park. Once or twice over the years I’ve chatted with rangers at put-ins, but I’ve never seen one on the water or on a portage trail. Maybe they’re really stealthy… maybe I just never noticed… maybe they disguise themselves as Tim Horton donut girls… ;^)

Note -The question was posed by a Canadian to Canadians. I imagine the question really is: Is it legal for a CANADIAN to use a USCG approved PFD in Canada. I’m not sure… But I’d guess probably not.

Mary, I’d suggest you post this question at the Canadian Canoe Routes forum. Hope that helps. - Randall

It’s about fines

– Last Updated: Nov-29-06 8:22 PM EST –

As a large retailler in the industry, I believe Mary knows that a Canadian can’t legally use a US approved PFD… the question asked was if anyone has been fined in Canada for not complying with the regulations.

I’ve never heard of a Canadian receiving a fine for not wearing a Canadian approved PFD (look for the ULC logo on your PFD tag) – in fact, I’ve never heard of anyone in a kayak even getting checked for the proper approved PFD.

If a Canadian is in the US, they can legally wear a Canadian approved PFD, and if an American is in Canada, they can legally wear an American approved PFD. But if you’re a Canadian citizen and wearing a non-Canadian approved PFD (and vice-versa) you’re breaking the law. Anyone else see the irony in this?



Thanks Dan
You’re right. My question really was about fines – not about what is legal. I’ve been checking out a new US manufacturer, who hasn’t gone through the Canadian approval yet (which is an expensive procedure). It’s legal for me to sell them in Canada but technically not legal for paddlers to wear them. From what I’m hearing, most of you are concerned with comfort and floatability, not what’s on the inside label. Does anyone have expeience with Astral PFD’s? And thanks for your comments. You all have confirmed what I was thinking.


you must have your reasons
but I turn the page in the NRS catalog and daydream of owning a Kokatat

just buy one
they are great!

Astral is not bad either, though.

Quality is comparable to Kokatat.

They seem more to cater to the kayak world…

so I can’t like them…

A question of ethics
As I now understand it the Astral PFDs have not gained Transport Canada’s approval and are therefore not legal in Canada for Canadians to use. I believe that as a dealer you have a moral obligation to your customers to sell them products that are legal for them to use.

Seems very simple to me – do what’s right for your customers.

– Randall