Boaters, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders (SUPs) may be seeing the Hills finest out on the water more often lately, but cops say they aren’t out to ruin anyone’s day.
The MRC des Collines – with the support of its six municipalities – has launched a new boating awareness campaign with a focus on “cohabitating” between non-motorized and motorized boat users.
“Since COVID, a lot of people are moving to the country or just want to do activities on the water,” said MRC des Collines Police Spokesperson Martin Fournel. “They are buying equipment to do so, but are sometimes unaware or forget to make sure they are up to code with the rules they need to follow, so this is why it was a great moment to launch our campaign. Not because of the increase in accidents, but to avoid them by teaching the rules and enforcing them, and also to teach people how to share the water.”
The campaign also stresses the importance of having the propert equipment on board, including floatation devices, ropes and signalling devices like a whistle - items Fournel says are often overlooked by water users.
“The aim of our boating team is not to issue tickets, but to ensure that everyone has the necessary equipment to ensure their own safety and that of other users,” said MRC des Collines Police Spokesperson Martin Fournel. “That's why, during their patrols, their role is mainly to educate boaters about the rules.”
Some of the things that boaters are unaware of, according to Fournel, are ensuring that everyone on board has a personal floatation device, keeping a signaling device, like a whistle on board, and ensuring that they have a 15-metre-long heaving line, a waterproof flashlight and a manual bailer or bilge pump in case the vessel takes on water.
Fournel told the Low Down that there was one accident on Lac Bernardon on July 17, when a jet ski rider was injured after slamming into some rocks.
Fournel added that police have heard through local lake associations that there have been “conflicts” between motorized and non-motorized boaters, but nothing that would have required a police presence. He added that there have been two drownings in the region this year.
MRC des Collines Prefect Marc Carrière launched the awareness campaign in mid-July on Lac McGregor in Val-des-Monts and said the campaign is needed to ensure residents can safely enjoy the water during a hot and humid summer, like the one we are having.
“We want to inform the most we can, and I think it will be [beneficial] for all the people that go on our lakes because it can be a wonderful day, a wonderful moment on a lake or on a river and in a split second can turn into a nightmare, if you're not aware of what you have to do,” he said. “It's really to inform the user of our lakes and rivers, so people can enjoy it and prevent bad things that could happen.”
The campaign boasts a QR code posted along the rivers and lakes in the Hills, which boaters can scan and get a list of all the required equipment and rules for safe boating. Police will also be handing out free whistles to boaters throughout the campaign.
The campaign comes on the heels of a deadly weekend on Quebec waters, as two people drowned in separate incidents near Quebec City July 30, while police continue to search for two others who went missing in the Laurentians.
Visit the MRC des Collines website for more on the campaign and to consult its 2023 Nautical Guide.