OUR MISSION: Make the Muskoka lakes safer and quieter to ensure the sustainable enjoyment of a treasured shared resource

Spring 2023 Newsletter

Chair’s Message

Hello and happy May!

Thank you to all who responded to the survey in our last newsletter! We outlined Transport Canada’s proposed changes to make personal floatation devices (PFDs) mandatory in some types of vessels or age groups and asked what you thought about them. We had 446 people respond to the survey! Here’s what you had to say:

  • 49% Supported mandatory PFDs for persons aged 18 and under
  • 52% Supported mandatory PFDs for any person on a human-powered vessel (canoe/kayak/paddleboard)
  • 31% Supported mandatory PFDs on board a pleasure craft of 6 meters or less
  • 31% Supported mandatory PFDs on board a pleasure craft of 5 meters or less

We also received written comments from 222 people! Everyone who commented was passionate about the issue. Here’s a sampling of those comments:

  • “I recommend people make their own decision on wearing a life jacket. Small children should be mandatory. Proper use and training of boats and equipment should be the mandate.”

  • “I believe that it is common sense to wear life jackets on any personal watercraft when in use. Weather conditions can be unpredictable, why take a chance?”

  • “Accidents can happen in a split second so you should wear one but people should be responsible for their own safety.”

  • “PFDs should be mandatory on all boats for all persons on board in my family’s view. Too many preventable deaths with grief and sorrow.”

  • “If Transport Canada wants to improve safety, then make it mandatory for all boat renters to have a boater’s licence. I’m sure that the accident rate has gone up in my lake since the influx of people renting boats who are provided with 20 minutes of instruction then allowed to rent high powered boats.”

  • “Seatbelts in cars are mandatory, to wear life jackets on boats is just as important.”

  • “You cannot mandate "safety," nor can you enforce it. What you can do is educate and encourage.”

This survey and our Your Lake, Your Views research, which included 6,000 responses, indicate that there is no clear consensus supporting mandatory PFDs. Safe Quiet Lakes believes that education on responsible boating, including the responsible use of PFDs, is more effective and more widely accepted than mandating the use of PFDs.

Boating season is beginning and as we start our activities on the water -- we need to remember to stay safe. Canadian Safe Boating Council is launching their annual Safe Boating Awareness Campaign to coincide with the May long weekend when most of us get out on the lake. See the link below for some of their helpful tips.

As always please feel free to reach out to me at chair@safequiet.ca with your thoughts or ideas.

Warm regards,

Diana Piquette

Chair, Safe Quiet Lakes

SPLASH! GASP! That's cold!

As the weather warms up, Canadian waters are still cold. The Canadian Safe Boating Council has designated May 20-26 Safe Boaters Week and a key message at this time of year is being cold-water safe. More than 60% of boaters who drowned did so in water less than 10C, and 43% were less than two metres from shore. The first thing that happens when falling into cold water is the gasp reflex, then hyper ventilation and rapid breathing. If you fall into cold water, don’t panic. Testing by the CSBC determines you have one minute to get your breathing under control, 10 minutes before the muscles in your extremities begin to lose function and an hour before hypothermia sets in and you lose consciousness. 

Let’s talk engine cut-off switches

Transport Canada has opened public consultations on installing and using engine cut-off switches on certain recreational vessels. The consultation period closes May 19th and the public is invited to share their views on potential new regulations. More information on how to do that can be found at this link.


An engine cut-off switch stops the propulsion system when the operator is unexpectedly ejected from the vessel. The safety feature protects operators from the spinning propeller and stops the vessel from moving through the water uncontrolled. The switches are usually “linked” to the operator via a mechanical lanyard or a wireless connection.


Currently, cut-off switches are only required on personal watercraft in Canada. The U.S. has required them to be installed on recreational vessels less than 26 feet (8 metres) since 2019, and in 2021 made it mandatory for boat operators to link themselves to their boat’s cut-off switch. 


Canada is considering similar legislation to the U.S., and now is the time to make Transport Canada aware of your views. Safe Quiet Lakes is also interested in your opinion on engine cut-off switches. Please answer our short survey.


Decibel Coalition is being heard

In the new federal boat noise regulations coming into force, Transport Canada has indicated they will include both stationary and shoreline testing procedures for enforcement. The Coalition considers this a positive step. Considerable time and effort working with enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and Minnesota has given the Coalition great insights on how best to enforce decibel limits – and both measures are key.

Why SQL engages in advocacy

Safe Quiet Lakes’ mission is to be a leading voice in promoting safe, quiet recreational waterways and respectful boating practices through education, advocacy and legislative change. Our vision is the enjoyment of safe, quiet waterways for all – boaters, non-boaters, wildlife, aquatic life, businesses and communities – for generations to come. To meet our mission and vision, SQL develops positions on regulatory issues for the following primary reasons:

  • Requests from Transport Canada for comment on new vessel regulations or changes to established boating rules. PFDs and engine cut-off switches are two recent examples. 
  • To formulate policy in response to our Your Lakes, Your Views Survey. For example, the proportion of residents supporting decibel limits on boat engines rose from 63% in our 2017 survey to 78% in 2021. As a result, SQL formed the Decibel Coalition to work with Transport Canada to bring in regulations on excessive boat engine noise. Another key area of concern is wakes – close to 80% of 2021 respondents said they supported no-wake zones in sensitive areas.

Our advocacy positions are based on evidence, learnings from other jurisdictions and scientific research, such as the effects of wakes on shoreline erosion. We believe in pro-active education, and encourage open dialogue with lake associations and all stakeholders. Please write to us to share your news and views.

Get Summer ready

Have you ordered your No Wake sign yet? The signs are designed to be used where boats need to have their bows down and no wake, which is 30 metres from shore, swimmers, other boats or docks.

The 24”x 24” signs are sturdy yet light and can be easily affixed to a boathouse or post. They cost $20, and can be ordered by emailing us at outreach@safequiet.ca.

We are hiring a summer Education and Awareness Coordinator

Safe Quiet Lakes is looking for an enterprising and outgoing post-secondary summer student to help us with our efforts to educate and promote safe and responsible boating behaviour. The role would mainly involve marketing and communications, social media outreach, meeting with the public, and organizing webinars. The position is remote work, but is based in Muskoka. Access to a car is essential. Some weekend and local activities. Interested candidates can contact us for more details or send their resumes and short cover letters by May 15th to outreach@safequiet.ca. The position is funded, in part, by the Canada Summer Jobs program.  

Join us in helping to keep our waterways safe

We build partnerships to encourage conversations about respectful boating and to lead change through education and advocacy. Your donation will help drive our programs.

Have questions? Contact us at outreach@safequiet.ca

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