Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications
Issue 14 - Evidence, October 16, 2001
OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 16, 2001
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, to which was
referred Bill C-14, respecting shipping and navigation and to amend the Shipping
Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 and other acts, met this day at 9:26 a.m. to
give consideration to the bill.
Senator Lise Bacon (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Welcome to this additional session on Bill C-14, to amend
the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 and other acts. At our last
meeting, there was a fair amount of discussion on pleasure craft and pleasure
craft in commercial use. Some issues were not completely clear to the committee,
so we thought it would be helpful to hear further testimony.
Today we again have with us Mr. Vollmer of the Canadian Yachting Association.
Representatives of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons were not able to attend
on such short notice, but they and the Fédération de voile du Québec are
pleased to have Mr. Vollmer speak on their behalf. Tomorrow we will hear
officials from Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Before we hear from our witness and put questions to him, I should like to
review a few points about the bill and our deliberations to date. Our
parliamentary research makes clear that Part 10 of the bill, which outlines the
responsibilities of Fisheries and Oceans for pleasure craft, is a new part, but
the requirements for pleasure craft are not new, and the difference is that they
are scattered throughout the current act. Let us be clear: we are not talking
about a new regime; we are talking about a legislative update of what is in
effect today. The same holds true for Part 11, enforcement. It is a new part,
but it consolidates the existing enforcement provisions.
Whether the government has done an adequate job of educating the public about
the rules and regulations or whether the enforcement has been adequate are other
issues that we can discuss and which we will pursue tomorrow.
As well, we see the value of the jurisdiction being shared with the Department
of Fisheries and Oceans, being primarily concerned with pollution, prevention
and pleasure craft, and Transport Canada, being concerned with commercial
operations. We recognize the difficulties for owners and operators of pleasure
craft that go in and out of commercial use, and we hope to discuss that further
today and tomorrow. However, we want to make it clear that we accept the
fundamental difference between a boat being used for personal recreational use
and a boat that is providing a service to paying customers, even when it is the
same boat. In the second instance, the person offering the service to the
general public has obligations, and customers must be able to have reasonable
expectations of safety. We hope the ways in which different personal and
commercial safety standards are applied can be worked out, but the principle is
I hope that making these several points at the outset will provide a useful
background for our discussions today. With that, I would invite our witness to
make his opening remarks. We thank Mr. Vollmer for taking the time to again
appear before our committee. I look forward to hearing the questions that
senators will to put to Mr. Vollmer.
Mr. Michael Vollmer, Vice-President, Recreation, Canadian Yachting
Association: I thank the committee for taking such an great interest in the
pleasure vessel community. It is heartening to see the government is indeed
paying attention to us and that this bill, which governs all our actions, is
being well scrutinized.
The pleasure vessel community has several minor concerns and one major concern
with regard to this particular bill. Our focus is on Part 11 which, indeed,
consolidates a number of the existing penalties, but it seeks to create a
separate environment of both enforcement and penalty for commercial vessels as
opposed to recreational vessels. This, we believe, will lead to uneven
enforcement and a reduction in safety on the water.
In my previous notes to the committee, I have pointed out that there are
literally almost 3 million boats operating on Canadian waters under the Canada
Shipping Act. Transport Canada has no on-water presence to speak of, and this
proposal to create a series of administrative penalties and violations as
proposed under Part 11 will create a situation that we feel will lead to a lack
of enforcement on commercial vessels. We would prefer to see all those
regulations that are common to all vessels commonly enforced with a common
penalty scheme. This includes regulations that the Transport Canada has kept for
itself, such as collision regulations. Collision regulations, perhaps in the
short form inappropriately named, are regulations for preventing collisions at
sea. They govern from canoes to half-million-tonne crude carriers. Everybody
plays by the same rules. There are other regulations, including the boating
restriction regulations, which Transport Canada would have reserved under part
Part 11 for themselves. We believe there is an important need for these common
regulations to be commonly enforced.
Transport, at a recent meeting in St. Catharines, suggested that they may be
willing to adopt the Contraventions Act, which would allow ticketing for all
pleasure vessels and all commercial vessels less than 24 metres in length.
Police and other enforcement agencies that do have an on-water presence would
enforce the Contraventions Act. We feel this would be a big step forward.
However, it is regulatory in nature, and the act at the present time does not
The pleasure vessel community has debated this at length, and we have had, at
best, preliminary discussions with Transport. They did not seem to realize the
extent of their regulatory grasp until it was pointed out that indeed pleasure
vessels were operating under these common regulations. We think there has been,
perhaps, a lack of consultation, though Transport of late seems to be more
amenable to that. We ask this committee to take a long, hard look at these
proposals and, if necessary, ensure that Transport does have adequate
consultation and that these regulations are passed for the benefit of all
Virtually every second Canadian goes out in a small boat at least once a year.
It is a ubiquitous part of life in Canada. Per capita, we have two-and-one-half
times as many boats as Americans. We are an extraordinarily boating-oriented
country, and this is an extremely important bill for all citizens of this
Senator Oliver: You are concerned about more consultation with the
department and the fact that the department is decriminalizing certain things.
You stated that many of the offences or contraventions were previously not so
much criminal but more administrative matters, and that that creates confusion
on the seas. Can these matters be resolved by regulations rather than being
covered by this legislation? If so, and since you have been having good and
improving consultations with the department, is that not the way to go?
Mr. Vollmer: Our experience with Transport over a number of years has
been somewhat uneven. Promises of future consultation are important, and a
commitment to that goal is important, but those promises and that commitment are
have not materialized. Our concern is that we could have legislation which
permits them to act in a manner which does not fully take into account the
concerns of the biggest fleet in Canada, any way you would like to measure it,
whether by numbers, weight, dollar value or economic impact.
Certainly there is an opportunity to address this in regulation and Transport
Canada has suggested that they might do that. However, I would like a strong
message to be sent to Transport Canada.
Senator Oliver: Perhaps we could do that by way of a memorandum or a
note. We certainly we do not require amendments to the legislation to do just
Mr. Vollmer: I agree. At the last meeting I attended, it was
suggested that some of the regulations could be referred to this committee for
review. That, I think, would be a positive step. Although it would add an extra
bureaucratic step, it would certainly ensure that the views of the pleasure boat
community would, in fact, be well heard and well understood.
Senator Oliver: You said that these provisions would lead to a reduction
in safety on the water. You did not say that they would have a positive impact.
In what ways will these provisions reduce safety on the water?
Mr. Vollmer: If a small commercial vessel, which could be a water taxi or
any small boat that is engaged in a commercial purpose, is being operated in a
negligent or unsafe manner, this proposed legislation will not permit a police
officer to board that vessel, and it will not permit a police officer to charge
the owner or operator of that vessel with unsafe operation. We see these
vessels, in essence, operating outside of an enforcement environment. The
penalty clauses proposed by Transport Canada are administrative penalties. The
first response from Transport will be a letter stating. "Please do not do
that again." If I were operating that same vessel as a pleasure vessel
operator in the same manner, I would immediately get a ticket from a police
officer. They are creating parallel regimes of enforcement and penalty, and the
two do not match.
This could affect a significant number of boats, probably 60,000 to 100,000. How
many of these boats will be operated depends on the definition of
"commercial" vessel. These vessels operate in every area in Canada,
including False Creek in Vancouver and Honey Harbour on Georgian Bay. There are
many small commercial boats. A marina's water taxi will be out there operating
in the midst of the recreational fleet. Under this proposed act, it will be
operating without supervision and with a penalty scheme that consists of,
basically, a slap on the wrist. The provisions will have no teeth.
Senator Oliver: Or a fine.
Mr. Vollmer: Or a fine.
Senator Callbeck: The last time you were here, if I recall correctly, you
talked about the economic burden for pleasure crafts to upgrade to commercial.
If you have a pleasure craft and, for one month of the year, you want to use it
for commercial purposes, what is involved?
Mr. Vollmer: At the present time, Transport has suggested that once a
vessel is used on a commercial basis for any reason and for any length of time,
it will henceforth and forever be considered to be a commercial vessel. At that
point, in many instances, the operator of the vessel is required to have some
from of certification. The personal flotation device, which has been a
tremendous boon for on-water safety, the vest-type life jacket, is no longer
permissible. The requirement is for the use of a small-vessel life jacket, which
is much bigger and less likely to be worn.
The vessels themselves must meet different construction standards. There is
certainly discussion within Transport Canada about applying stability tests and
requirements for water-tight windows, hatches, port lights and doors, which are
fundamental safety issues. However, if a vessel is used on a commercial basis,
there is an economic impact.
The Canadian Yachting Association has great concern about one specific
commercial use of these vessels. Presently our association trains tens of
thousands of people a year in boating. Only part of the training is done in the
classroom. We actually take our students out on sailboats and powerboats and
teach them how to boat. Most of the bigger boats that are used for overnight
training, including teaching navigational techniques, are part of charter
fleets. The boat owner may be trying to recover some of his costs by renting his
boat. The schools will use a charter service boat. If the boat is classed as a
commercial vessel because it is "carrying passengers," then the next
person to operate the boat must have a limited masters ticket, and the boat must
have new safety equipment. The boat may have to be rebuilt to approved plans. We
are very concerned about all sorts of things.
Within the bill there is a provision to create vessels of a prescribed class and
persons of a prescribed class, which means that Transport could designate these
people as being recreational boaters learning about recreational boats on a
recreational boat, rather than being a commercial operation. Money does change
hands for people to go out on a boat but, fundamentally, we are teaching
recreational boaters how to boat, and that is an important safety issue. We want
them to be better boaters. We do not want to cut back on this. I surveyed every
one of our training schools in the country, and they all said they would be out
of business if they were classed as commercial vessels for the economic impact
reasons and other issues that we have talked about. We have discussed this area
with Transport for almost two years, and we have not had an answer from them.
I understand Transport is about to hire somebody to help solve this problem.
That is indicative of the lack of understanding of the small vessel community in
Canada. Transport has an excellent record with big ships. However, that is not
the case with respect to smaller vessels. It occasionally crushes our toes a
Senator Callbeck: Many people in my community have pleasure craft that
become commercial vessels for a month or so in the summer.
Will we be hearing from the departmental officials tomorrow?
The Chairman: Yes.
Senator Spivak: Mr. Vollmer, you have illustrated an important point
regarding safety on the water. What other concerns do you have with regard to
safety on the water? Of the 3 million boats that you say we have in Canada, how
many commercial boats would fit into this category? I am referring to small
boats that are sometimes used for training or for hire. Where are those boats
Mr. Vollmer: There are no legitimate estimates of how many vessels may
become commercial vessels. Presently, the government does not have a good handle
on it, because there is no such designation.
Senator Spivak: Am I correcting in my understanding that the federal
government does not license them?
Mr. Vollmer: All vessels over 10-horse power are required to be licensed.
There is an upper limit, which is presently 15 tons, at which they have to move
on to the ship registry.
Senator Spivak: I understand they are not licensed by the federal
Mr. Vollmer: They are licensed by the federal government. The federal
government controls all navigation in Canada. It is a seamless system. This bill
is so important because it does cover all boats in the country. The boats are
not licensed from a business point of view. They are licensed based on the type
of vessel. At the present time, all boats over 10-horse power must be licensed.
At a certain size they must move on to the registry. The business licence aspect
is a separate issue.
The federal government is trying to create a small vessel registry with this
bill. All small commercial boats will be on that registry and will be easily
Senator Spivak: Are you saying that they are licensed but not registered?
Mr. Vollmer: They could be either.
Senator Spivak: You told us that 3 million boats are on the water. Could
you hazard a guess as to how many boats this particular provision would
encompass? In my view, safety is a huge consideration, but I do not know if it
is the highest priority.
Mr. Vollmer: It certainly is. I think I can give you some answers.
The number of vessels that qualify to be classified as smaller commercial
vessels ranges from 60,000 to 300,000, which is a significant number.
As to the issue of safety, I would say that boating in Canada is a surprisingly
safe sport. It is several times safer than driving a car. The majority of
fatalities are a result of people falling overboard, either tipping a boat over
or somehow ending up in the water and drowning, typically because they are not
wearing a life jacket.
A number of accidents each year are collision-type accidents. Collisions between
boats cause any number of injuries.
The creation of parallel enforcement environments, where the collision
regulations would remain with Transport in an area where we do not see adequate
enforcement, or even a presence on the water, and a penalty scheme with which we
disagree, leads us to believe there will be a decrease in safety and an increase
in on-water incidents which are not dealt with properly. It is my experience
that almost everybody slows down if a police officer is parked by the side of
the highway. If trucks were not policed by police officers, they would be driven
the passing lane at 200 kilometres an hour because nobody could touch them. We
are worried about this kind of scenario developing on the water.
Senator Spivak: Are you saying that another problem is inadequate
enforcement of the existing regulations? Would you say that is a proper
Mr. Vollmer: No. At the present time, the collision regulations and the
sailing rules are not part of the Contraventions Act. Police have asked a number
of times that the provisions be placed in that. This is part of ongoing
I sit as a director of the Canadian Safe Boating Council which has made
representations in the House of Commons about this matter. We are concerned
about safety across the board. We see an opportunity to create clarity with the
passage of this bill, and it may lead to improved safety on the water through
better uniform enforcement. We believe the bill is flawed. We have brought this
forward on a number of occasions.
Senator Spivak: Do you feel that policy, the general national regime, for
pleasure craft on Canadian lakes and rivers is adequate? Apart from speed, what
other things might contribute to a lack of safety on the water?
Mr. Vollmer: Enforcement is the stick. The carrot is education. The
federal government has moved forward, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
deserves great credit for creating the pleasure craft operators card, which
requires people to at least pass a test so they can say they know this is the
pointy end, this is the blunt end, this is one side of the boat and that is the
other side. They have some understanding of the rules that govern boating.
The other aspect is safe vessels and safe equipment on board those vessels. We
have seen a decline in boating fatalities since the adoption of floatation
devices in boats and the development of the PFDs. Since the late 1960s, there
has been a 600 per cent decrease in boating fatalities. That based on the number
of boats tripling and the fatalities falling by a factor of three. There has
been a tremendous improvement but there is a long way to go. Approximately 200
people in Canada die each year in boating accidents which are mostly entirely
preventable. We want to put in place another leg. We need better enforcement. We
have education and safe boats. Enforcement issues are key. This bill opens the
door to decreasing enforcement, not increasing it.
Senator Spivak: You think the present regime is adequate, but this
particular item that you have brought to our attention would be of utmost
importance and is a high priority in your mind; is that right?
Mr. Vollmer: It is certainly a high priority. I would not say the current
system is adequate. I say that because between Bill C-15 and Bill C-35 there
have been a couple of changes which have reduced the enforcement agency's
ability to board commercial vessels.
Senator Spivak: What are the elements that make up the pleasure craft
community? Who makes up that community? I know the organizations you represent.
Who else makes up the pleasure craft community?
Mr. Vollmer: Probably everyone in this room. I know that you are a
pleasure boater, senator. You have a boat on your lake. You probably also have a
canoe at the cottage and a small sailboat. People keep boats in their backyards
and the engines in the garage. In general, Canadians use the waters to a great
Senator Spivak: So it is the opinion of those individuals that count and
not just the opinions of the organizations you represent; is that right?
Mr. Vollmer: In any democracy there are many unengaged people. Those who
are more interested and concerned tend to belong to organizations which promote
things like safety.
Senator LaPierre: I am at a loss here. When you talk about enforcement,
you seem to have two views. Let me elaborate for a moment. If I have understood
you correctly, you are saying that the enforcement of legislation concerning
smaller vessels could be undertaken through the Contraventions Act, whereby a
police officer of the municipality of Vancouver, for example, could board
vessels and make arrests. Is that what you want?
Mr. Vollmer: Yes.
Senator LaPierre: Police officers could issue a ticket, just as they do
on the road, and the boat operator would have to pay the fine, or his or her
licence could be removed, and the boat could also be confiscated; is that right?
Mr. Vollmer: In extreme circumstances they can seize a vessel, yes.
Senator LaPierre: Is it possible to have enforcement without regulation,
without a traffic code and without penalties?
Mr. Vollmer: Yes.
Senator LaPierre: That would govern every single vessel on the lakes and
rivers, whether it be a canoe, a kayak or a sailboat that is 10 feet long or 70
feet long. Are you in agreement with that?
Mr. Vollmer: Currently there are uniform regulations for all those
vessels. They govern the operation of the vessels and the speed limits that
Senator Spivak spoke about. Those are presently in place.
The dichotomy is that the bill tries to create a separate enforcement regime and
penalty scheme for commercial vessels.
Senator LaPierre: We will come to that.
Mr. Vollmer: Presently, there are sufficient regulations to ensure safe
Senator LaPierre: There is a category of boats including those used for
pleasure that are not used at all for commercial purposes. I lived in British
Columbia for 15 years and I sailed an enormous amount. In fact, it was the only
time I was happy. However, I saw a whole lot of nasty things.
The committee will have to determine whether the regulations or the provisions
of the proposed legislation will permit what you are after, which is better
control and the ability to catch the person who is not behaving appropriately on
Mr. Vollmer: Absolutely.
Senator LaPierre: In terms of commercial craft, I sympathize with your
point of view. However, you cannot have your cake and eat it, too. If my family
and I find someone who wants to rent to us a nice 39-foot sailboat, and I rent
this boat, I want a guarantee that there is proper insurance and the boat is
equipped with all appropriate safety features. I do not wish my family or anyone
else to be put into jeopardy. If that boat is presented as a commercial venture,
then it falls into a different category.
Madam Chair said: "We want to make it clear that we accept the fundamental
difference between a boat being used for personal recreational use and a boat
that is providing a service to paying customers, even if it is the same
Certainly, there is a distinction to be made.
Mr. Vollmer: There is, senator, and you have touched on a fundamental
point. Somebody, who knows nothing about boating, who goes down to the end of
the pier and says, "Here is $5. I want to go for a boat ride" should
be considered to be in a separate category. The vessel should be checked by a
third party. The crew should be certified by a third party. This is what
Transport Canada does to ensure public safety on what is, in essence, public
The difference is a subtle one. If I rent my friend's boat and he receives
money, I assume responsibility for the boat and the people onboard. It is a
bare-boat charter. In fact, if I rent a boat and a skipper with the boat, then
again I am assuming the responsibility. First-time charter party arrangements
were written down in what is called the doomsday book. It is a fairly well
understood point of admiralty law.
When you are no longer renting the boat and assuming responsibility for it, you
become a passenger rather than the temporary owner of the boat.
Senator LaPierre: When I rent a car from a rental company, that company
has the responsibility to rent me a safe car. It seems to me that the same
should apply if I rent a friend's boat. I must have guarantees. Furthermore, the
owner know that I can sail that boat because the fundamental responsibility for
the vessel itself belongs to the owner. He would not be stupid enough to rent me
a boat and I do not know how to sail. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to
me that you do not want to admit that these little pleasure craft can become
commercial vessels that have to be guided, supervised and handled in a
completely different way.
Mr. Vollmer: I would like to respond to your analogy of the car rental.
If you go to a car rental company, then that company will ask you if you assume
the responsibility for that car. You are asked if you want to buy their
insurance or if you will provide your own insurance. If you get a speeding
ticket, you are responsible for paying it. All they are doing is giving you four
wheels and a bunch of doors. You are still responsible for the use of the
vehicle and any damage to it. They have a certain duty to give you a safe car.
In our presentation, we say there are clauses of the bill, such as those which
deal with personal contracts of employment, authorized representatives and
safety of persons onboard, which strictly and purely apply to commercial
If there is a contract to employ someone on a ship, the ship has to be safe. The
authorized representative for the ship has to ensure it is a safe ship. The
owner has to ensure the vessel is safe. The master has to ensure there is
adequate training of the people on board for emergencies, et cetera. This is not
mirrored on the recreational side at the present time. In our brief, we ask that
it be mirrored and that the owner of a vessel be responsible to ensure that the
vessel is safe and that the master be required to operate the vessel in a manner
that is safe. There is some discussion in admiralty law circles that, at the
present time, civil law deals with the owner's responsibility, whereas in the
bill it is clear, on commercial vessels, that the owner and the master of the
vessel have different responsibilities. The clauses in question are 85, 106 and
109 in Parts 3 and 4.
To come back to your point, though, when you charter a pleasure vessel, you
charter it as such. The expectation is that you will share it with your friends
and family. You will not be paid to take people out on that boat. You are simply
renting a boat to take your family out sailing or power boating or whatever. It
is still a recreational vessel, not a commercial operation.
Senator LaPierre: I would have to be a Jesuit to understand that. If I
understand correctly, you disagree with the principle that the chair read at the
beginning of the committee: We want to make it clear that there is a fundamental
difference between a boat being used for personal recreational use and a boat
that is providing a service to paying customers.
Mr. Vollmer: I agree entirely with that.
Senator LaPierre: You say that if I charter a boat, it is no longer a
commercial vessel but, rather, a recreational vessel which happens to have
Laurier LaPierre on board.
Mr. Vollmer: You are assuming the responsibility. As a paying passenger,
you do not assume the responsibility for your safe carriage. The vessel owner
and vessel master have been paid to ensure that you get to the other shore. When
you rent a boat to take your friends out, you are simply saying, "Come out
for a picnic. Go swimming in my backyard pool. If you fall in and drown,
Senator Oliver: Who has the responsibility to protect the public in that
Mr. Vollmer: As I understand it, it is a matter of civil law rather than
admiralty law. The person operating the boat must operate it in a safe manner.
The bill, from a commercial point of view, does specify clearly that the owner
and master of the vessel have duties, and those are not mirrored on the pleasure
vessel side. We suggest they should be mirrored on the pleasure vessel side.
Senator LaPierre: If I understand correctly - that is a big
"if" - if I approach you and I rent your 34-foot pleasure craft and
sail off with it, I am totally responsible for it, and it remains a pleasure
boat. If, on the other hand, I say to you, "I cannot operate it. Please
sail this ship for me and my family," it is your boat and you are totally
responsible. It becomes a commercial vessel and is subject to all the penalties
applied to commercial vessels.
Mr. Vollmer: That is very close to the ideal, yes.
Senator LaPierre: So you are making a distinction.
Mr. Vollmer: Yes.
Senator LaPierre: Is it the responsibility of the owner of a vessel which
is rented to me to stipulate conditions as would a car rental company? They have
a whole series of contractual arrangements. Does that happen?
Mr. Vollmer: Some charter operators are very sophisticated and do have
Senator LaPierre: We are not talking about them. We are talking about you
renting me your little boat.
Mr. Vollmer: It is chartering a vessel, and it does not matter if it is a
rowboat or a 79,000 foot long whatever. Chartering is renting a vessel.If I
charter it and I assume the responsibility, then it can remain as a pleasure
vessel. If I go to you and say, "Take me out for sail. Here $10 for me, $10
for my wife and $5 for both the kids," that is a passenger-carrying
Senator LaPierre: It is then a commercial vehicle.
Mr. Vollmer: Yes.
Senator LaPierre: Is it therefore subject to all the laws applying to
Mr. Vollmer: Absolutely.
Senator LaPierre: Including going to jail or paying huge fines?
Mr. Vollmer: Absolutely. We agree with that. A number of charlatans
attempt to quote charter vessels when in fact they are carrying passengers, and
Transport Canada has been doing a good job of cracking down on that.
Senator Finestone: Am I correct in saying, Mr. Vollmer, that there is a
degree of clarity in the bill, and that is dispersed throughout the bill? You,
however, have pointed to one part of the bill which you say lacks precision. You
say that pleasure craft are covered in the bill, but because of the various
regimes involved here, there is a lack of precision and clarity. Would I be
right in making that observation?
Mr. Vollmer: I suppose every cloud has a silver lining. We agree with
large sections of the bill, but our central concern is and remains Part 11
because it creates parallel enforcement and penalty regimes which we feel
strongly will be a detriment to adequate safety on the water.
Senator Finestone: If you had a magic want, what would you do to clarify
and make more precise Part 11?
Mr. Vollmer: In our proposal, we talk about the enforcement officer, and
that role defined. We suggest that the definition in Part 10, the pleasure
vessel section, should be used throughout the bill. That would allow police
agencies to adequately enforce laws that are common to all vessels - collision
regulations, boating restriction regulations and small vessel regulations. We
are not interested in a police officer enforcing the ship's tackle regulations
or the requirements for cooks on ships. That is none of our business. We do not
want that. We want our environment to be a common environment with the
commercial vessels, so that we are assured that any transgression on the water
will be dealt with quickly and in a fair and common manner.
The proposals that Transport Canada recently made to allow all commercial
vessels under 24 metres in length to be policed under the Contraventions Act by
police agencies would go a long way to ameliorating our concerns. There would
have to be some clarification of the clauses which permit enforcement officers
to board vessels. If those changes were made, we would have a better bill, and
we would certainly support it.
Senator Finestone: Is there a need to change the language in the bill
itself, or could this be accomplished through regulations?
Mr. Vollmer: I would suggest there would have to be a language change.
Senator Finestone: Have you given some thought to the nature of the
language change, and have you discussed that with the department?
Mr. Vollmer: In our discussions with the department we have been trying
to raise the department's awareness of the issue. Presently, the department is
developing that awareness. They have made proposals that have not been well
thought-out from the broader boating community's point of view. They have
approached me and several other people saying that they want to sit down and
work this out. Perhaps it can be regulatory.
A number of amendments to the bill were proposed in the Canadian Yachting
Association's brief, both here and to the House of Commons. These amendments, if
adopted, would help. Certainly, I know that the pleasure vessel community would
be happy to sit down with Transport and sort this out as quickly as possible.
There is a lot of expertise on our side of the table that we are perfectly
willing to share.
Senator Finestone: I would have presumed, Mr. Vollmer, that the
department, having noted that the Senate committee has not been prepared to pass
the bill because we have a concern for the citizens of Canada, the ordinary
people who use pleasure craft, would have been in touch with you and discussed
this by now. Are you telling me they still have not talked to you?
Mr. Vollmer: No. In fact, I think they got the message loud and clear
after the last meeting, and they have approached me.
Senator Finestone: What has happened since then?
Mr. Vollmer: It has been mostly talk. There has been no action to this
point in time.
Senator Finestone: Have you had direct meetings with them?
Mr. Vollmer: I attended a meeting in St. Catherines, of the Central
Region Marine Advisory Coucil, which is chaired jointly by DFO and Transport.
That was followed by two days of introduction to the Canada Shipping Act
amendments by the Department of Transport.
That was probably the first time I attended a meeting with Transport where they
listened almost as much as they talked. That is a big step forward. Several
senior officials at that meeting did assure me that they were more aware of our
concerns and would want to work them out with us. That meeting was held within
the past three or four weeks. There have been no formal meetings yet. The
Canadian Marine Advisory Council meets at the beginning of November in Ottawa,
and I presume that, at that time, there will be a more serious engagement on
Senator Finestone: The bill before us has been passed by the House of
Commons, so I am sure that enough attention was paid to this particular aspect
of the bill. We have expressed our interest and our concern, and the department
has now spoken to you. In the best interests of all concerned, both pleasure
craft owners and users, should this bill go through with a strong message to the
government that it needs to work on the regulations? Should the bill be passed
only with amendments? As it is, would it touch on safety issues?
Mr. Vollmer: I would suggest that there should be a number of amendments,
For example, under "Definitions," the enforcement officer definition
should be made broader. These are covered and laid out in the CYA's brief to the
Senator Spivak: My understanding is there will be extensive, nation-wide
public consultations on the regulations, which will take several years. It is
not as if the department has not had public consultations, but it will have more
extensive public consultation. However, that does not respond to Senator
Finestone's concern as to whether we should amend the bill or look to the
regulations. That was the department's intention prior to this gentleman's
testimony, and perhaps it will only be reinforced by this gentleman's testimony.
The Chairman: That is why we will be meeting again with the departmental
Senator Finestone: Regarding the Part 11 enforcement, you say that the
entire clause creates a parallel set of violations to be dealt with through
administrative penalties through clauses 228 and 244 and you do not believe this
supposed system will serve the best interests of the boating public. You suggest
that Part 11 be deleted from the proposed act until such time as the entire
enforcement policy has been rethought.
You are concerned in 228 about the concept of a violation creating a second
stream for enforcement of the act and the regulations, and you are opposed to
this concept for the reasons that you have stated.
Mr. Vollmer: Yes.
Senator Finestone: You have discussed these with members of the
department, and they seem to understand your concerns, although you say that, if
they are not boaters, they do not understand the situation from a recreational
boating perspective. Is that what I am learning?
Mr. Vollmer: That is pretty much the situation. They are unhappy to deal
with any vessel less than 10,000 tonnes.
Senator Finestone: I believe Senator Fitzpatrick said it is better to
have one department than two departments with the responsibilities being
divided. I will leave that up to him to follow through.
Senator Fitzpatrick: It do not believe I raised that topic.
Senator Finestone: Perhaps it was Senator Banks.
In your remarks, Madam Chairman, you touched on all these points. Can we
anticipate further discussion with the department on the issues?
The Chairman: Yes.
Senator Finestone: Frankly, and I think the distinctions must be made.
There needs to be a great deal more clarity regarding federal, provincial and
municipal responsibilities, so that the civil law is clarified.
Senator Spivak: We should know all of that.
The Chairman: Those questions can be asked tomorrow.
Senator Finestone: I hope the representatives of the department are aware
of what is being said today and that the department will look at all the
interconnecting links and satisfy us that this can be handled to allow for
cohesion, reduction of confusion and uniform enforcement. Then the pleasure
craft community and Canadians can have confidence in this act.
We can discuss with the department the need for specifically targeted
regulations and, perhaps, a delay in the application of the law, until such time
as we have had the opportunity to review the regulations as a committee, bearing
in mind our own observations here. I hope that framework is clear.
Senator Adams: Activities on the water can include many things. For
example, in would include sports fishers on rivers and river craft. Are those
activities covered by your organization, or do sports fishers have their own
organization? How does that work?
Mr. Vollmer: There are as many different type of boating associations as
there are different types of boats in Canada. No one organization represents
them all. The Canadian Yachting Association tends to represent owners and
operators of larger boats, sail and power. Since the 1930s, it has been a major
The Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, of which I am a member, is another
training organization, and it wrote a glowing letter about me - a letter that I
am slightly embarrassed about - allowing me to speak on its behalf. It has done
a tremendous job of training people. It exists as a training organization. Those
who train with that organization tend to be power boaters.
There are associations of anglers and hunters who use smaller boats. There are
wind surfing associations, canoe associations, and associations which cover all
sorts of paddle sports. There are many different organizations. Many
organizations belong to the Canadian Safe Boating Council, which promotes
boating safety. They try to act as a group. The approach to consultation is
interesting, and Senator Finestone has raised the point.
The Canadian Coast Guard used to be a top-down organization. Most of the people
were ex-shipmasters whose concept of consultation was: "I thought I gave
you an order!" The Canadian Coast Guard has done a splendid job of totally
altering its culture. It now sits down regularly with the recreational community
at both national and regional levels, and it asks about the community's concerns
and what needs to be done.
Transport still tends to be a top-down organization. We have very good relations
with the Coast Guard which has reached out to many of these disparate boating
groups. We urge Transport Canada to adopt a similar model.
Senator Adams: What is the difference between the regulations that cover
the seas and those that apply to the lakes?
Mr. Vollmer: The regulations and the legislation governing boating are
federal. They are uniform from coast to coast. The Constitution Act reserves for
the federal government all maritime transport, which includes pleasure boats.
This has led to a positive environment in many cases, where we do have good
The American example is quite the contrary. Everybody including the dogcatcher
can set boating regulations. The Indian River in Florida covers 23 different
jurisdictions in 21 miles, each with its own rules.
Senator Adams: Should Bill C-14 cover only commercial vessels, and should
there be separate legislation to cover recreational vessels?
Where I live many people go pleasure hunting for seal, walrus and whale,
although it is not really considered to be a water sport. The RCMP, which is the
local law enforcement agency in the territories, enforces the laws and bylaws in
the communities in the North.
Mr. Vollmer: We have been well served by the common federal regulations,
and I would not advocate that there be two pieces of legislation. As pointed
out, many of the regulations are common to both recreational and commercial
vessels. If we had two sets of right-of-way rules, for example, it would be
chaotic. We are worried about enforcing one set of rules, not creating another.
Our community has been well served by the Canada Shipping Act. It has created
responsibilities for us, as well as having given us certain privileges. If you
register your vessel, you can take it anywhere in the world, and it is a little
bit of Canada. That has been a positive thing. We have uniform application of
boating restrictions. There are methods for putting in place speed limits and
horsepower limits, et cetera. It is positive; and it works well. There are
aspects in this bill that we see as divisive rather than cohesive. We believe
that what we have had in the past is positive. We seek to craft better
Senator Adams: What do you think about the regulations governing vessels
longer than 42 feet and the need for a captain?
Mr. Vollmer: I believe the crewing regulations have been amended
recently, although I am not sure on this point. They are virtually the only ones
that speak to the need for masters on pleasure vessels over 25 metres in length,
which is approximately 65 feet.
Senator Spivak: Madam Chairman, if we are serious about all the issues
concerning boating safety, should we not hear from other organizations?
The Chairman: The clerk contacted many organizations and their
representatives said that Mr. Vollmer was the appropriate spokesperson.
Senator Spivak: I am talking about those who canoe, as well as others,
not necessarily those operating motor boats.
The Chairman: Let us wait and see how you feel after we have heard the
information from both departments. We need to know more. If we conclude that our
knowledge is incomplete, then we will decide to hear other people.
The committee adjourned.