In Canada it’s currently illegal to paddle a canoe and be drunk at the same time. Doing so can leave you subject to the country’s strict drunk-driving laws, which can mean fines, driving license suspensions, and vehicle impoundment. But wait! According to the National Post, paddling a canoe while smashed might soon not be a crime at all.
The crux of the issue is whether drunk people should be prosecuted for a crime that, on land, would not be a crime, since being drunk while operating a non-motorized vehicle on land (like a bicycle) is not a crime, while being drunk while operating any kind of vessel on water is, including those, like canoes, that you power solely with your muscles.
Some advice, before we continue: Don’t canoe while drunk. Or do anything, really. Take a nap.
From National Post:
The impaired driving legislation now before Parliament changes the definition of a vessel so that it “does not include a vessel that is propelled exclusively by means of muscular power.” The legislation could still be amended before it becomes law.
John Gullick, chair of the CSBC, argued that the comparison with biking is wrong.
“The only person who gets hurt is the person riding the bicycle. 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.”
The committee later heard from Greg Yost, a justice department counsel for criminal law matters. He said the intention of criminal impaired driving laws is to target those who are endangering the public, and that drunk canoeists who cause a death could still be charged under other criminal sections, such as negligence.
The debate was spurred in part by a rash of cases in Ontario, where authorities have been cracking down on drunk paddlers.
In 2011, a Waterloo canoeist who’d allegedly been drinking and paddling on Belwood Lake had his driver’s licence suspended for 90 days, leaving him unable to drive his pregnant wife to the hospital for medical checkups (though he could have still paddled her there, as canoes don’t need a licence).
That same year, a 57-year-old man was charged with operating a pedal boat under the influence near Sault Ste. Marie, and also had his licence suspended.
The charges were dropped in both cases after prosecutors decided there was no reasonable chance of conviction.
The proposed legislation is also intended to clear up ambiguity in the current law, which makes it hard for drunk-paddling charges like these to hold up in court. Think before you drink. Or don’t drink at all. Or don’t go outdoors. Just stay inside. Nothing bad can happen there.