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Boating and drinking in Canada

Drunk driving is a significant problem here in Canada. Drunk boating gets less attention. However, as the country with the world's longest coastline as well as a large number of freshwater lakes, boating under the influence is a concern of law enforcement and the Crown. Whether you're in a sailboat, speedboat or other type of watercraft, if you are operating it while impaired, you're endangering yourself, your passengers and others on the water.

Serious and even fatal accidents occur every year because of people operating recreational boats in Canadian water while under the influence. As summer approaches, this is a good time to review what the laws are regarding the consumption and possession of alcohol while on a boat.

It is against the law in Canada for the operator of a boat to have a blood alcohol content of more than 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. Penalties for exceeding that limit increase based on how many previous offences you've had. A first offence can get you a fine of $1,000 or more. A second offence can land you in jail for at least 30 days. For a third offence, you can end up behind bars for at least 120 days. Provinces vary in their maximum penalties.

Even if you're not the one operating the boat, there are restrictions on the consumption of alcohol. Specific regulations vary by province. However, in general, alcohol can only be consumed on a recreational boat if:

-- It is secured along a dock.
-- It has permanent cooking and sleeping facilities.
-- It has a permanent toilet.

Boating is a popular summer activity for many Canadians. While it's understandable to want to enjoy it with a few beers or glasses of wine, it's essential to know the law before you get on the water -- not just for your own province, but for any province whose waters you may be sailing into.

Nothing can ruin a vacation like being arrested. If you do find yourself in this position, a criminal defence lawyer can help work to protect your rights and try to mitigate the consequences.

Source: Transport Canada, "Requirements for Foreign Recreational Boaters In Canadian Waters," accessed April 08, 2016

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