You’re relaxing with a few friends in a public park on a glorious summer afternoon. Since everyone is of legal drinking age, you’ve brought a few coolers in your picnic basket. What’s the harm in cracking open a drink?

In Manitoba, drinking in public is considered a crime. Even though you don’t mean to break the law, this act can result in a serious fine. 

But the law isn’t the same across all of Canada. The answer to this question depends on which province you’re in. Some areas have more relaxed laws about public drinking than others. In addition, not all public places are treated equally. 

In this post, we’re going to cover the various drinking laws imposed across Canada, and what might happen if you’re caught drinking in public:

Why is it a Crime to Drink in Public?

Laws that restrict drinking in public are an effort to reduce public intoxication, which is another crime that carries a hefty fine. It’s also a way of reducing young people’s exposure to alcohol. If a child sees adults drinking in a park, it normalizes an “unhealthy” behaviour, and some might argue that it outright encourages it.

But if you’re visiting Quebec, the province with the most relaxed public drinking laws in the country, it’s no problem to drink in a public park—as long as you have a meal with you. 

Many people disagree with laws that forbid drinking in public. They believe that it doesn’t cause any direct harm to others and seems unfair when drinking on restaurant patios is permitted. Still, it remains a crime to drink publicly in most Canadian provinces.

What Could I Be Charged With?

A few provinces have relaxed their public drinking laws in recent years, but Manitoba isn’t one of them. 

Not only is drinking in public a crime in Manitoba, but our province imposes the harshest penalties for this act in all of Canada. In Manitoba, if you’re caught drinking in public, you may be fined up to $672. A fee like that is a sure way to spoil an evening on the beach, watching the sunset with a glass of wine.

Will Public Drinking Laws Be Relaxed?

Some argue that allowing people to drink in public can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Think about it: instead of gathering inside a restaurant or patio, people can spread out in parks and beaches to enjoy a drink. This creates more distance between people and therefore reduces the chances of someone spreading COVID-19.

Big Canadian cities like Calgary and Vancouver are pushing for their provincial government to loosen public drinking laws. However, these attempts have been mostly unsuccessful.

Drinking laws vary across Canada since they aren’t enforced at a federal level. Instead, each province sets its own restrictions about drinking in public, just like with legal drinking ages.

Make sure that anywhere you drink is either a private residence or a licenced location. If not, you could face a hefty fine. Repeat offenders can expect to pay even more the next time they’re caught drinking in public. 

If you’re looking for an accredited and qualified criminal lawyer, contact Matt Gould. He can create defences against your charges and help you reduce your fine.