Proposed legislation legalizes drinking and canoeing

October 1, 2017 4:30 pm

In an effort to update laws regarding impaired driving to account for the upcoming legalization of marijuana, the federal government is considering dropping penalties for drinking and canoeing

Canoeing or kayaking while drunk is currently subject to tough punishments which means offenders can lose their driving licences or get driving bans.

Now, parliamentarians are weighing legislation that would exclude any vessel "propelled exclusively by means of muscular power".

Under the current criminal code, operating a vessel while impaired by drugs or alcohol is illegal, but the law does not define the term "vessel".

The proposed changes add a definition to include hovercrafts but not vessels "propelled exclusively by means of muscular power" - human-powered boats like canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats.

About 12.4 million Canadians go recreational boating each year.

People caught for boating while impaired face potential fines, losing their driver's licence and even imprisonment.

In 2011, a 57-year-old man made news after being arrested in Ontario for paddling a boat while impaired.

One Ontario man is going to trial this year for an incident in which he tipped a canoe, sending an eight-year old passenger into the water.

He was swept over a nearby waterfall and died.

The man who tipped the canoe was allegedly drunk and goes on trial this year under drunk driving laws as the canoe is considered a vessel under current laws.

An estimated 40% of the boating-related accidents in Canada involve alcohol consumption as a factor.

The Canadian Safe Boating Council opposes the legislative changes and told MPs studying the bill that, between 1991 and 2010, alcohol was either the cause or suspected cause in 375 deaths in human-powered boats in Canada.

The Liberal government tabled the new impaired driving legislation mainly to deal with the use of drugs while driving.

The country is expected to legalise recreational marijuana next summer.