Put your paddles down if you’ve been drinking. Drunk canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding will continue to be illegal after Canadian MPs backed off on a proposal to remove human-powered vessels from impaired driving laws.

Safe boating advocates opposed the plan and said it would send the wrong message to boaters and put more lives at risk.

Liberal MP Colin Fraser put forward an amendment at Wednesday’s meeting of the House of Commons justice committee that struck a clause defining a vessel subject to impaired driving laws as including a hovercraft, but not a vessel “that is propelled exclusively by means of muscular power (bateau).”

Fraser did not propose specifying that muscle-powered boats are included under impaired driving laws.

“It allows the case law to develop what the definition of a vessel is, I guess, further than that,” he told the committee.

Conservative MP Rob Nicholson wanted clarification, asking: “It’s going to still be a crime to paddle a canoe impaired? Yes? Thank you very much. That’s all I need to know.”

The discussion is part of a sweeping overhaul of Bill C-46 as the federal government prepares for the legalization of marijuana amid fears it could like to a spike in drug-impaired driving.

The legislation will need to pass votes in the House of Commons and the Senate.

The Criminal Code has long been murky about which water vessels are subject to impaired driving laws while specifying it only applies to motorized vehicles on the roads. So that means an impaired cyclist couldn’t be charged, but someone who is drunk and paddling a canoe, kayak or raft could be.

It’s been left open to police and Crown attorneys to decide whether to lay charges against canoeists or other paddlers who have been drinking. Police had the option to instead charge drunken paddlers with being intoxicated in public, but impaired driving carries much stiffer penalties.

Representatives of the Canada Safe Boating Council testified before the committee in September, that treating bikes and water vessels the same is wrong because boats can carry passengers and rescue operations on the water can put others at risk.

They argued that impaired driving laws should apply to all boats on the water, citing that 60 per cent of Canada’s 8.6 million boats are muscle-powered and that kayaking and paddle boarding is increasing in popularity. According to the Canadian Red Cross, more than 40 of recreational boating deaths are alcohol-related. There were at least 375 deaths in suspected or confirmed cases involving alcohol and unpowered vessels such as canoes and rafts in Canada from 1991 to 2010.

The case of an eight-year-old boy who died earlier this year, after falling out of an overturned canoe and being swept over a waterfall on the Muskoka River, was cited several times during the committee’s discussion. The OPP laid charges of impaired operation of a vessel causing death and operating a vessel with a blood-alcohol level over 80 milligrams causing death against 37-year-old David Sillars.

So the Criminal Code’s definition of a vessel may be soon tested in court.