Use hand-held lasers legally and safely

Many hand-held lasers are now prohibited: Check yours!

With some exceptions, it is illegal to possess hand-held lasers over 1 milliwatt (mW) in public areas within:

  • municipalities within the greater Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver regions
  • a 10-kilometre radius of any airport and certified heliports

Aiming a laser at an aircraft is not a bright idea. It’s a federal offence. Laser attacks can temporarily blind the pilot, putting all the people on board the aircraft at serious risk. In 2019, there were nearly 250 reported laser strikes on aircraft in Canada.

Transport Canada has put in place permanent regulations to protect Canadians from laser attacks on aircraft. Find out where the safety measure is in effect and if it affects you.

On this page

Understand the new safety measure

You may still buy and own a laser pointer—you just need to follow the new safety measure.

Regulations regarding hand-held Lasers

You cannot possess a hand-held laser over 1 mW outside of a private dwelling within:

  • municipalities within the greater Montréal, Toronto or Vancouver regions
  • a 10-kilometre radius of an airport and certified heliports

You may possess a hand-held laser anywhere in Canada for any of the following reasons:

  • The laser has 1 mW of power or less
  • You are in possession of the laser for a legitimate purpose, such as for work, school or educational purposes
  • You are a member of an astronomy society and are in possession of the laser for that purpose

Lasers affected by the safety measure

The safety measure affects hand-held lasers of over 1 mW in power. These lasers may look like pens or flashlights. Often, people use them when giving a lecture or presentation.

The higher the number of milliwatts (mW), the more powerful the laser.

Learn more about how lasers are classified and their power output

Explore the interactive map

Use the map to learn where the new safety measure is in effect. If you plan on using your laser outside, such as in a park, be sure to check out the map before you go.

Map: Where hand-held lasers over 1 milliwatt are prohibited

Enforcement and penalties

You don’t want to be caught in possession of a laser where you shouldn’t be. As well, you certainly don’t want to be caught aiming one at an aircraft. If you’re caught, law enforcement can issue you a fine on the spot.

If you’re stopped by law enforcement, you should be prepared to demonstrate why you’re in possession of a hand-held laser over 1 mW.

Law enforcement agencies will be trained to know when and where people may possess a laser. They will exercise their discretion and judgement when determining whether or not to issue a fine.

Penalties for possessing a hand-held laser where you shouldn’t be

If a law enforcement officer stops you with a hand-held laser over 1mw in a prohibited area, depending on the circumstances, they can issue you a monetary penalty either under the Canadian Aviation Regulations or under the Contraventions Regulations on the spot unless you demonstrate a legitimate reason. Under the regulations, the fines are:

  1. Under the Contravention Regulations, the fine amount is $1000
  2. Under the Canadian Aviation Regulations:
    • up to $5,000 for an individual
    • up to $25,000 for a corporation

If you receive a fine for an offence under the safety measure, you may choose to pay the amount of the fine or file a written request for an appeal with the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada or at the respective provincial court.

Penalties for aiming a laser at an aircraft or into airspace

Shining a bright light (such as a hand-laser) into airspace is now a designated provision, which means a law enforcement officer can issue you a fine under the Contravention Regulations or a monetary penalty on the spot. The fines are the same as for those possessing a hand-held laser where you shouldn’t be.

Intentionally interfering with the performance of flight crew to perform their duties is also a criminal offence. An example of such an offence would be intentionally shining a laser at an aircraft, which distracts a pilot and interferes with his or her ability to safely land the aircraft. Offenders will be charged under the Aeronautics Act.

If you are also convicted of intentionally interfering with an aircraft by using a laser, you could face one or both of:

  • up to $100,000 in fines
  • up to 5 years in prison

Dangers of aiming a laser at an aircraft or into airspace

Never aim a laser at or near any aircraft or into airspace.

Incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft continue to threaten aviation safety in Canada.   In Canada, there were 1,965 laser attacks reported to Transport Canada and published in the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS) between January 2015 and the end of December 2019. It’s a disturbing statistic—it means the safety of pilots, crew and passengers was put at risk during each laser attack.

A laser is not a toy. Aiming a laser at an aircraft can cause a major accident by:

  • distracting the pilot
  • creating glare that affects the pilot’s vision
  • temporarily blinding the pilot

Reporting a laser attack on an aircraft

If you see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, report it immediately to your local police, or local Crime Stoppers organization

Pilots, complete the Directed bright light illumination incident report/questionnaire [PDF, 1.0 Mb] and send it to Transport Canada. You will find submission details at the bottom of the form.

Lasers for astronomy and laser light shows

Lasers are often used in astronomy to point at stars or sky features. If you plan on aiming a laser into navigable airspace, you must get permission from Transport Canada.

We give written permission if your laser use is not likely to:

  • create a hazard to aviation safety
  • cause damage to an aircraft
  • cause injury to persons on board the aircraft

We may specify conditions necessary to ensure the safe use of the laser.

You can also speak with your local astronomy club. They may have additional information for you. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada provides information on green laser pointer usage.

Complete the proposal form

Complete the Notice of proposal to conduct outdoor laser operation(s) [PDF, 1.6 Mb] and send it to the Transport Canada regional office closest to you.

More information

Laser safety measure: questions and answers

If you have any questions, please contact your Civil Aviation regional office, or the national headquarters at Civil Aviation Communications Centre contact form.