Canadian Car Seat Laws
Getting a car seat for a child is not an easy task, and can be even more challenging if you are
a new parent. There are stages, ages, charts, measurements and even laws that govern the
use of car seats, and it can be a lot. Car seat laws and regulations in Canada go up to 12
years. Using the wrong car seat for your child can not only land you in trouble but also
diminish your child’s safety, especially in the event of an accident. Confused about whether
to get forward, rear-facing or booster car seats for your little one? Here is a comprehensive
guide that will help you pick the right choice based on your province and keep your child
safe and comfortable as you take that short or long drive.
Car seat stages for kids in Canada
There are four established stages or styles of car seats for children in Canada.
Stage 1- This is a rear/ back-facing seat and puts the child looking out the rear window with
their back facing the driver. It is the safest position from the newborn stage and provides
support for the child’s neck and head. While it is mandatory from the newborn stage, the
limit depends on the jurisdiction. However, the basic recommendation is for parents,
guardians and caregivers to keep the Stage 1 seat until the child outgrows the weight and
height restrictions. Sometimes, a child can outgrow the back-facing seat before reaching the
province’s minimum weight and age requirements. In this case, purchasing a convertible
seat, one that can be set either rear and forward-facing, is recommended.
Stage 2- This is a forward-facing seat that places the child in the same direction as other
passengers. It can only be used by a child who has surpassed the stage 1 requirements. It
enhances safety with the five-point harness. To ensure it does not move from the car’s seat
in the event of an accident, it is installed with the rear tether strap.
Stage 3- Recommended only for children who are ready to switch to this stage based on
their physical development and also behaviour, this is a booster car seat used together with
the car’s safety belt. Why should a child’s behaviour be checked before moving to this
stage? Some children, despite reaching the required minimum weight, age and weight for
this stage can tuck their shoulder behind their back or even unbuckle a seat belt when the
vehicle is in motion. The booster seat ensures that the safety belt is correctly strapped on
the child’s shoulder and does not climb onto their neck.
Stage 4- At this stage, your child can use the normal seat belts in your car. However, it is
essential to ensure that the belt fits correctly. Also, your child should be past the minimum
weight, age and height requirement based on your province.
At what age can children sit in the front seat?
While Transport Canada recommends that children should not sit in the front until the age
of 13, some provinces allow children above the age of 12 to sit at the front.
Car seat laws in Canada by province
As we discussed above, car seat laws vary across Canada. It is important to determine the
car seat regulations in your province to avoid being on the wrong side of the law. Knowing
the car seat laws also comes in handy when travelling to another province as it becomes
easier to plan your travel accordingly.
In Ontario, children should use back-facing car seats till they reach 9kgs (20 lb.). The child
can then transition to a forward-facing car seat until they reach 18kgs (40 lb). If the weight
of the child ranges between 18 kg- 36 kg (20-40 lb.), they can transition to the booster car
seats. Booster seats in Ontario should also be used by children below the age of eight and
those who are less than 4.9” (1.45m) tall.
In Alberta, children should use back-facing car seats until they are two years old or as per
the manufacturer’s height and weight limit. The child can then transition to the fore-facing
seat until they turn six years old or weigh 18 kgs (40 lbs). Alberta does not have a specific
law regarding combination or booster seats.
In British Columbia, infants should use the back-facing car seats up to the age of 12 months
or till they surpass 9 kgs (20 lbs). They should then transition to the front-facing car seats
until they are 18 kgs (40 lbs) where they can then use the booster seats until they reach a
height of 145 cm (4.9’’).
Nova Scotia requires children to be secured to a back-facing seat up to the age of 1 year and
a weight of 10 kgs (22 lbs). They can then use a car seat until they weigh 18 kg (40 lb). In
Nova Scotia, a booster seat should be used until the child reaches 9 years or attains a height
of 145 cm.
New Brunswick and Manitoba
These two provinces have the same car seat laws.
Children are required to be safely secured in a car seat or booster seat that is suitable for
their weight, age and height. Children can use booster seats until they reach the age of 9
years, attain the height of 145 cm (4’9”) or weigh 36 kg (80 lb).
Prince Edward Island
Children should be safely secured in a back-facing car seat up to the age of one or the
weight of 10 kgs (22 lb). They can then transition to a car seat until they weigh 18 kgs (40
lb). A booster car seat should be used until the child is 10 years old, 145 cm (4’9”) or as per
the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Children should use back-facing car seats until they weigh a minimum of 9 kg (20 lb). They
can then transition to a front-facing car seat until they weigh 18 kg (40 lb). As per the
regulations in the two provinces, children should use booster car seats until the age of nine
or up to the point where they weigh 37 kg (81.5 lb) or are 145 cm (4’9”) tall.
Children are required to be safely secured in back-facing car seats until they can walk
unassisted or are over 10 kg (22 lb). They can then transition to a car seat suitable for the
child’s weight, age and height until they attain a weight of 22 kg (48 lb). A booster car seat
can then be used until the child weighs 45 kg (100 lb) or is 145 cm (4’9”).
A child must be safely secured in a car seat until they are 18 kgs (40 lb). The province does
not have rules on rear-facing seats. The child should also use a booster until the age of 7,
they are 145 cm (4’9”) tall or reach 36 kg (80 lb).
Children must use car seats that are ideal for their weight, age and height. They should also
use a booster seat until they are nine years old or 145cm (4’9”).
A child must be safely strapped on a back-facing car seat until they reach 9 kgs (20 lb). They
can then use a car seat until they attain a weight of 18kg (40lb). Nunavut does not have
booster car seat laws.
Simply fastening your child to the car seat does not guarantee safety and effectiveness. You
can have the right car seat as per the province laws but not have sufficient protection in the
event of an accident. As such, you have to ensure that the car seat is properly installed. But
how do you do this?
● Ensure that the car seat is placed at the safest place- The initial car seat installation
step is ensuring that it is placed at the safest location in the car. The safest car seat
for a child is the back seat. If you are installing a booster seat for an older child,
ensure that the seat has a shoulder and lap belt. And if the middle position only has
a lap-belt, use a harnessed car seat. A child using a backless booster seat should be
placed in a seat with a headrest.
● Follow the manufacturer’s installation guide- This is especially vital for the
convertible rear to front car seats. Ensure you install the car seat as per the
manufacturer’s guidelines. And if you are unsure of how to properly do it, always ask
for help. Also, ensure that you fit the child firmly in the seat so that there is no
● Adjust straps accordingly- Before every trip, ensure you adjust any slack in the
harness. They should always be snug and tight but not too tight, especially when the
child is wearing heavy clothing. Also, the lap section of the harness should be placed
at the pelvis but not the child’s stomach.
● Always check the car seat expiration- All car and booster seats sold in Canada have
expiry dates. Using an expired seat belt not only exposes your child to risks but is
also against the law. Also, never use a car seat that has been involved in a car
accident, whether it was damaged or not.