Calgary, AB,

August long weekend water safety

The Heritage Day long weekend is one of the busiest long weekends for Calgary waterways, and the Partners in Water Safety are reminding river users to have fun in a safe and responsible manner.

So far this year, the Calgary Police Service Marine Unit has handed out 640 warnings to river users who were either not wearing lifejackets, or who had alcohol on the river. The Marine Unit also assisted people in eight separate incidents where rafters ran into unexpected trouble. The Calgary Fire Department has talked to hundreds of rafters about river safety and performed 24 water rescues this year.

These statistics highlight the need for users to follow the rules of river usage.

“Our biggest concern is that someone is going to be seriously injured, or killed, as a result of an unfortunate accident combined with alcohol impairment and improper use of a life jacket,” says Insp. Tom Hanson, Calgary Police Service District 1. “People’s lives can be forever changed in the blink of an eye.”

In Canada, approximately one-quarter of boating fatalities occur when a life jacket is present on board but not worn, according to the Canadian Red Cross.

“We’ve found that some people don’t realize they need to wear a life jacket every time they are boating or rafting,” says Calgary Fire Department Chief Steve Dongworth. “There are areas of our rivers, particularly the Elbow River, which are shallow, and you may have perfect weather conditions, however, things can change so quickly on the water.”

Users of both the Elbow River and the Bow River are asked to follow responsible boating practices. Rafters practicing unsafe or disrespectful behaviours may receive fines for violating municipal bylaws or provincial statutes. These fines include, but are not limited to:

Failing to wear a life jacket or personal flotation device – mandatory court appearance

Consuming liquor in public - $115 fine

Littering on, into or under water - $115 fine

Littering in a park - $500 fine

Littering from a vehicle - $750 fine

Disposing of burning litter - $1,000 fine

Urinating or defecating in public - $300 fine

“During this August long weekend, our bylaw officers will be patrolling river and park areas to ensure everyone has an opportunity to enjoy our parks in a safe and respectful manner,” says Inspector Sue Wall, Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services.

For more information on water safety, please visit

Details of a media availability will follow in a separate advisory.