What are floating accommodations?

Any watercraft that is supplied and equipped for overnight use is considered a floating accommodation, including:

  • barges with a cabin
  • floating cottage (units built on rafts versus a hull)
  • houseboats
  • larger vessels with sleeping quarters

It is evident that changes are happening on Ontario’s waterways. The use of waterways by watercraft has grown to include floating accommodations which can accommodate longer stays, similar to those of a cottage. Some of the common concerns about floating accommodations include:

  • logistics for emergency services
  • need for building permits
  • time and length of use
  • potential for limiting access to public lands and waterways
  • increasing environmental impacts on waterways
  • property tax considerations
  • wastewater management

Who regulates floating accommodations? 

Regulation of use is a complex issue involving all levels of government:

Transport Canada

Responsibilities:

  • oversees navigable waterways, watercraft safety, and defines the requirements regarding vessels and the accompanying need for licence and registration
Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry (NDMNRF)

Responsibilities:

Municipalities

Responsibilities:

  • must consider environmental concerns, impact on local residents, and enforcement of municipal by-laws where the Township has jurisdiction, including noise complaints
Parks Canada - Trent Severn Waterway (TSW)

Responsibilities:

  • in addition to water management Parks Canada - TSW regulates and governs lands within their jurisdiction through a permitting process

What laws currently regulate floating accommodations on waterways?

Ontario Regulation 161/17 

O. Reg 161/17 regulates the type of structure or things that may be used on public lands, as long as the conditions in the regulation are followed. Structures include 'camping unit' which is defined as:

  • a structure or vehicle that may be used for camping purposes or as an outdoor accommodation and includes a tent, trailer, tent-trailer, recreational vehicle, camper-back and any watercraft equipped for overnight accommodation.
 Public Lands Act
The Public Lands Act provides for the creation and management of restricted areas by the Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry in parts of Ontario without municipal authority. In a restricted area, permits from NDMNRF are required undertake specific activities, whether this occurs on Crown or private lands. Activities that require a permit from MNR are identified in the development plan or guidelines that refer to each restricted area. 

How do these laws impact the use of floating accommodations?

Navigation of waterways is considered a public right, including reasonable moorage, and camping on provincial public lands—including those covered by water—is permitted for free by residents of Ontario for up to 21 days.  O. Reg 161/17 and the Public Lands Act allow this if the following rules are met:

  • the camping unit is being used for private non-commercial camping purposes
  • the duration of the use is to a maximum 21 days at one location each year
  • after 21 days the camping unit must move at least 100 metres from its previous location
  • the public lands that are occupied are not part of a road, trail, parking lot or boat launch
  • the person using the camping unit is a Canadian citizen or resident. If not, the person requires a permit for camping per Ontario Regulation 326/94 Crown Land Camping Permit, when camping north of the French and Mattawa Rivers
  • the public lands being used are not already occupied by another person with occupational authority 
  • camping is not prohibited on the lands (i.e., per a land use plan or signage) 

How are concerns about floating accommodations being addressed?

The NDMNRF recently asked municipalities for their input on “camping” on waterways and the use of floating accommodations on Ontario’s public lands. In April 2022, the Township of Severn submitted comments in response to this notice. Although no regulatory changes are currently proposed these comments submitted by Severn may help to inform future changes which would then be subject to a public consultation process.

Who can residents contact to voice their concerns?

The majority of the waterways in Severn are under the federal jurisdiction of Parks Canada. These include:

  • Severn River including Gloucester Pool and Little Lake
  • Maclean Lake
  • Otter Lake

Residents who would like to submit comments or voice their concerns can contact Adam Chambers, Member of Parliament for Simcoe North:

Main office – Midland

504 Dominion Avenue
Midland, Ontario
L4R 1P8
Phone: 705-527-7654
Email: adam.chambers@parl.gc.ca

Orillia

575 West Street South
Suite 12
Orillia, Ontario
L3V 7N6
Phone: 705-327-0513

Ottawa

Adam Chambers, MP
Parliament of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada
K1A 0A6* 

*Mail may be sent postage-free to the Ottawa parliamentary address.

Subscribe to this page

Select the “Subscribe to this page” button located to the right of the page. You'll receive an email notification every time we update the content for this page. This is an easy way to stay informed.