You don't need safety equipment just to float around in your inflatable ducky. However according to Transport Canada if you decided to take that inflatable water toy onto open water, it would then fall under "pleasure craft" regulations.
Canadian law requires you to carry certain items on board when operating pleasure crafts such as canoes and kayaks, and it's good to know these before you set out on the water. Here are the most up to date regulations as of May 2015:
What am I legally required to carry with me?
For human-powered boats under 6 metres in length, you are required to have on board:
1. One lifejacket or PFD for each person on board. Check the tag on the inside of the jacket: it must be approved by Transport Canada to be legal.
2. One buoyant heaving line at least 15m long (that's almost 50'). This can be in the form of a simple bow line, but throw bags are recommended as they can be used more effectively in rescue situations.
3. One bailer or manual bilge pump. Pumps are easier to operate in kayaks which may not have enough room in the cockpit to bail properly. Note: sit-on-top kayaks (with no cockpit) and SUP's don't need bailers or pumps as they cannot hold enough water to capsize.
4. One sound signalling device. For most people this means a whistle that can operate underwater, such as a Fox 40 or similar. It's a good idea to attach this to your PFD; that way you'll never lose it.
5. Navigation lights if operating the boat after sunset, before sunrise or in restricted visibility conditions. Most people are off the water during these times, but if you are paddling in these conditions you need to be visible to other watercraft.
One of our favourite products is the Northwater 4-Bailer: it's a bailer, throwbag, and sound signalling device all in one.
SUP paddlers: You may wonder what the regulations are for stand up paddleboards. As of April 2015 there are proposed recommendations for SUPs including listing them under the Human Powered Craft category of regulations. At this point the recommendations are under review and we'll probably see them come out in the near future.
There are, however, many more products coming out on the market that appeal to SUP use. Ankle leashes are always a good idea, and specially designed SUP deck bags make it a lot easier to transport gear. One safety product that we like is the Northwater Quick-Click Waist Belt which you can attach a throw bag to and has a built in safety whistle and quick release buckle.
If you would like more detailed information on boating regulations, check out Transport Canada's Safe Boating Guide.
Happy paddling folks!