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Rafters are required to wear life jackets on Calgary's Bow or Elbow rivers. ((CBC))

A judge has upheld a Calgary bylaw that requires rafters on Calgary's Bow and Elbow rivers to wear life jackets.

Last summer, bylaw officers caught Brittiany Latouche and her brother, Cory, rafting without life jackets on the Elbow River. They were ticketed, which carries an automatic fine of $500.

The siblings challenged the bylaw, arguing that the city has no jurisdiction because waterways fall under federal authority. Federal laws mandate personal flotation devices in a boat or other vessel, but not that they be worn.

Provincial court Judge Judith Shriar dismissed their constitutional challenge on Wednesday, saying that the municipal and federal governments can occupy the jurisdictions harmoniously. 

City of Calgary lawyer, Ola Malik, said the law is in place for a reason.

"The reality is people drink. They become intoxicated. People can drown in very shallow waters," he said.

"We're not only trying to protect those people who are engaged in those activities but also … [Calgary police], fire, other bylaw officers who are going in to rescue these people."

Plans to appeal

Brittiany Latouche said she plans to appeal the ruling, and in the meantime, plead not guilty to the charge of boating without life jackets.

"Don't think you need one [a life jacket]. I guess everyone's an adult and responsible for their own well-being and it's five inches of water maybe [in the Elbow]," she said.

"I don't think that the city has the full rights to the waterways that are running through here so we're going to choose to fight it still."

Josi Spencer, who hits the Elbow in warm weather, said she doesn't see the need for a life jacket.

"It's really quite shallow. If it's knee deep, you're really not in any danger and I don't find a life jacket's necessary especially if you're like on one of those cheap plastic things they sell for $3, I mean that's not exactly safe either," she said.