• Vincent Maranda

Beer bottles in boats


Q. I just moved here from Cornwall. In Ontario, I once got a ticket for a beer bottle in my boat while fishing (plus a charge of urinating in the river). I can’t find the rules for Quebec. What are they?

A. Boating in Ontario is subject to ‘tough love’. You can't even show a beer bottle in public on a boat (or anything that floats).

Maybe rich people wrote their boating laws. To consume alcohol on a boat in Ontario, the craft must be equipped with sleeping and cooking facilities, a permanent toilet, and you can only drink while moored at a dock.

Forget the bucolic imagery of opening a beer in one of their million lakes. Ontario is the land of the free, except for liquor.

In Quebec, you don’t have to be rich to drink on a boat. Liquor on boats is totally unregulated. No law. It’s clear and cool sailing with your wine glass raised, not having to sneak swigs from under your seat. I guess we have ‘je ne sais quoi’ that does not allow legislation to come between fishing on a lake and a bottle of beer.

How much legal intrusion is justified in regard to safety in our society? Here are a few things to know.

The Criminal Code prohibiting drunk motor boating does apply in Quebec. The permitted alcohol levels and penalties are the same as for drinking and driving a car. If a Sûreté du Québec (SQ) boat checks your drinking, pray there will be no waves as you walk in a straight line on the water to prove you are sober. But seriously, 40 per cent of boating accidents are caused by alcohol so moderate drinking below the legal limit is imperative (boating deaths with alcohol above the limit are roughly twice those below the limit).

On the question of urinating in a body of water you could get a rare ticket of discharging organic waste in a watercourse, being in a public place. Besides standing up in a boat is dangerous.

Is the science on this good or bad? Urinating in a body of water, or peecycling, may be good. When the nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients get into our rivers they apparently cause beneficial ‘algal blooms’ enabling growth. Some people already think that and it’s true. But here’s the catch – up to three per cent of boating deaths are caused by someone standing up in a boat and urinating. We must take that into consideration as well.

This should not stop you and your guests from enjoying the freedom of being crazy in love with that cold beer on ‘Lake Anywhere’ in Quebec. However, moderation is a key element in what our current laws are saying.

Just keep in mind current laws are saying moderation is the key while statistics support the idea drivers should not drink at all during the party.

Please send your legal questions to editor@yourlocaljournal.ca

For legal advice please go to: vmaranda.com

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