While we can print them for free off the internet, I'm not aware of the govt giving printed charts away here. They give the data away for the purpose of public safety.
Not really. According to the Canadian Hydrographic Service
Internationally, the United States is the only country where electronic charts are available at no charge. Canada and the U.S. have different domestic, fiscal and social policy. In the U.S. copyright laws prohibit the federal government from claiming copyright protection for the information it produces.
In Canada, by contrast, there is no barrier to the government exercising its copyright, or from earning revenues from such copyright. As such, there is an expectation that CHS will earn revenues and royalties from the sale of charts and publications in order to partially cover the cost of publishing, distributing and maintaining those products. Surveying and charting benefit our nation as a whole, therefore the costs of conducting hydrographic surveying and producing the charts are borne by the government and funded through parliamentary appropriations. Anyone accruing a specific benefit from the use of the derived products is expected to contribute by paying a portion of the incremental costs associated with publishing, supporting, maintaining and distributing the products.
Prices for Canadian paper charts, publications and electronic charts are among the lowest in the world. In fact, in March 2007 CHS reduced the prices of its electronic charts, both vector and raster, by more than 50% and has been constantly increasing the number of charts on most CDs. CHS also offers free updates for one year from the date of purchase of our digital products.
IMO if you are making a long passage without paper charts and marking your position regularly as a backup you are foolish. Hopefully you never need to go to your backup but Murphys law suggests otherwise