Canoeing Under the Influence to be Removed as an Impaired Driving Offence

Canadian government revisiting impaired driving charges

With marijuana becoming legal in Canada in 2018, the Canadian government has been working vigilantly to narrow down and tighten impaired driving offences in the Criminal Code. As a result, a few ambiguous laws are being revisited, specifically in the realm of drunk driving charges for canoeists.

Impaired driving charges are strict and often lead to automatic license suspension and big fines, and for more intense cases, ignition locking and vehicle impoundment.

According to the current Criminal Code, water “vessels” fall under impaired driving laws, which basically means that all boats, motorized or not, qualify. This does not ring true for land vehicles — the Criminal Code specifically labels motorized vehicles, so non-motorized vehicles (such as bikes) don’t qualify for impaired driving charges.

There have been a few cases in Ontario where canoeists under the influence were stopped by lake police and charged with impaired driving. Back in April, a man who was allegedly canoeing drunk on the Muskoka River was charged with impaired operation of a vessel after his canoe capsized, sending both him and an 8-year-old boy into the water. The boy had gone over a waterfall and died.

The Federal government notes that although a drunk canoeist won’t face an impaired driving charge under the new laws, a drunk canoeist who causes death or injury can face other charges under the Criminal Code.

Photo courtesy Christopher Porter via Flickr.