Canada’s canoeing community may soon have a reason to break out the Champagne — responsibly, of course.
According to a report in Canada’s National Post, Canada is planning to amend a current Criminal Code that allows officers to ticket or penalize canoeists for operating their boating equipment under the influence of alcohol.
The new rules are said to be part of a larger effort to reevaluate the country’s impaired driving laws ahead of Canada’s legalization of marijuana in 2018, the National Post reports.
As it currently stands, Canada’s Criminal Code allows officers to ticket drunken canoeists, kayakers, rafters or anyone operating similar “vessels” while drunk, just as the operator of a motorized vehicle would be ticketed or penalized. However, much like the operator of a motor vehicle, drunken canoeists can have their actual drivers’ licenses suspended for canoeing under the influence. They can also be fined, demerited, or have their cars impounded.
Ironically, though, canoeists are still legally allowed to operate their canoes while their vehicle licenses are suspended, seeing as Canada doesn’t require a license for small water-faring vessels.
The Canadian Safe Boating Council, meanwhile, has already spoken out against Parliament’s plans, arguing that drunken canoeists not only endanger themselves, but others. They also fired back at people who likened the old Criminal Code to a drunkard on a bicycle (who would be exempt from ticketing, as a bike is non-motorized).
“The only person who gets hurt is the person riding the bicycle,” argued the CSBC’s vice-chair, Michael Volmer. “Well, in the case of muscular or human-powered vessels, there can be far many more numbers of people in the vessel, and it also affects people around the vessel. First responders, people who are searching for people who get lost or get in trouble.”
Volmer may be referencing a 2017 instance in which an 8-year-old boy was killed when the canoe he was in capsized, sending him over a waterfall. The 37-year-old operating the canoe was allegedly impaired at the time of the accident, the CBC reported.
A member of the justice department responded to the CSBC’s concerns by saying that, under the new code, those who endanger the lives of those in or around their vessels can still be charged with other crimes, such as negligence.
Rowdy canoeists will not be exempt from tickets or penalties related to public drunkenness, either, reports The Post.