Transport Canada has outlawed the outdoor possession of all but the smallest laser pointers within 10 km of airports in Canada as part of its drive to curtail laser attacks on aircraft. On June 28, the department issued an interim order banning the use of portable lasers emitting more than one milliwatt of power through its beam. Most laser pointers available in Canada are more powerful than that and many are thousands of times more powerful. So-called “green lasers” of 5,000 milliwatts are available for less than $200. Green lasers are the most common type reported in attacks on aircraft. Individual violators face fines of up to $5,000 while corporate offenders can be fined $25,000.

In addition to the airport prohibition, lasers of more than 1 milliwatt are also banned in public spaces throughout the greater Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto areas. It should be noted that simple possession of the device can trigger the fine. Violators don’t have to be caught using a laser. In practical terms, the 10 km. radius around airports bans them in most cities and towns. There are exceptions to the rule for those who have a “legitimate reason” for having the device on them. One such reason is the use of green lasers by astronomers and members of astronomy clubs to point to objects in the night sky. TC says law enforcement personnel will be trained on legal laser possession and will be able to issue fines “on the spot” for violators. Those who think they’ve been improperly fined can appeal to the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada. Anyone caught pointing any power of laser at an airplane faces fines of up to $100,000 and five years in jail.