While the laws regarding private vessels entering Canada have not changed very much in recent years, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the official name for Canadian Customs, has modernized its reporting requirements in an effort to make it easier for private boaters to comply with Canadian Customs laws.
Entering Canada by private vessel is in many ways much simpler than when entering the U.S., although some of the details as to who has to report and when, are a little different than the U.S. The primary thing you should remember is that in Canada; simply entering Canadian territorial waters from foreign waters is enough to require reporting to the CBSA. To quote the CBSA:
"Arrival in Canada occurs when the pleasure craft crosses the international boundary into Canadian waters."
The only exception to this rule is for those vessels transiting directly from one foreign point or port outside of Canada to another foreign point or port outside of Canada. Vessels in transit are defined as: vessel movement must be continuous, uninterrupted, and without delays or stopovers.
A good example of this would be a U.S. vessel on a non-stop trip from Buffalo, NY to Sandusky, OH on Lake Erie. The shortest and most direct route in this case would have you entering Canadian waters. In this case you are "in transit" and not required to report your entry. Entering Canadian waters for any other reason requires that you report to Canadian Customs.
All vessels are required to present themselves upon their arrival in Canada, regardless of whether or not they anchor, land, or moor alongside a dock or other vessel. This includes all foreign vessels entering Canada, as well as Canadian vessels that depart Canada and enter foreign waters, and subsequently return to Canada. (Arrival in Canada occurs when the vessel crosses the international boundary into Canadian waters.)
The only exception as noted above applies to vessels that are in transit through Canadian waters.
This is where our cousins to the north really shine! Welcome to the "Telephone Reporting Site/Marine." The TRS/M’s are locations at which non-commercial, private and passenger marine vessels may report to the CBSA by telephone. This is much like the U.S.’s OARS program just much more extensive. You can view or download a listing of all Ports of Entry later in this article.
Canadian and American citizens who enter Canadian territorial waters from foreign waters with no intention of landing on Canadian soil, may report their arrival by cell phone at the point that they cross the international boundary.