We know it might not feel like it lately, but it’s summer, Calgary! Also, fall is looming dangerously close. If you haven’t had a chance to raft the Bow yet, your days are numbered, so you should probably get on it. Before you do, we’ve got a very important reminder. As it turns out, you can get the equivalent of a DUI for drunk river rafting in Calgary along with a whole slew of other fines if you’re not careful.
According to statistics provided by marine unit acting Sgt. Alasdair Robertson-More, the total river calls in 2019 to date is 178 compared to only 85 in 2018. River calls refer to incidents when police are called to the scene of a river-related disturbance. Though not all calls are alcohol-related, the RCMP are certainly cracking down on river safety and that includes drinking while floating.
In Calgary, there have been 544 liquor seizures and a total of seven criminal charges have been laid already in 2019. This is compared to a total of zero criminal charges in 2018. Robertson-More told us that the criminal charges vary, but an example he provided was a man refusing to provide I.D. after being caught drinking on the river.
Narcity interviewed Robertson-More to get all the details on fines associated with drunk river rafting in Calgary. In this article, we break down exactly what you could be charged with if you're floating down a river while drinking and the cops catch you.
Robertson-More told Narcity in an interview that you are dealing with three levels of legislation when it comes to booze and rafting down the river.
“Ultimately impaired operation of a conveyance includes vessels and we take the definition of vessels from The Canada Shipping Act" according to that definition, a vessel is anything designed for, used for, or capable of navigating on, near, or below the surface of the water, Robertson-More explained. In this description, floating on tubes definitely qualifies as a vessel.
He explained that the word “navigating” in this context simply means going from one place to another. Therefore, “You could be bobbing down the river on an air mattress, and because you’re going from one place to another you’re navigating the river,” said Robertson-More. In this instance, you are liable to all of the safety measures and criminal codes in relation to the impaired operation of a vehicle.
The charges you may be vulnerable to if you are drunk or drinking on a river float are impaired operation of a vehicle, intoxication in public, and transportation of alcohol within reach of an occupant of a vehicle.
“If you look at the definition of a vehicle, it includes a vessel" he explained. Therefore, If alcohol is in reach of anybody on your floatation device, you’re transporting it illegally. Both public intoxication and alcohol within reach are provincial fines which are about $115.
In terms of a federal offense, if it's something that the police are able to clearly articulate as an imminent risk to life or the public safety of somebody, “It would be the same as a DUI. You could be arrested for impaired operation, taken back to the office, breath samples would be taken, just as if you were stopped in your car,” said Robertson-More.
Though this isn't common, if you are putting yourself or others at serious risk, it might be the case. "Though it wouldn’t impact your regular driver's license, you would likely have conditions placed on you to not operate a vessel for a period of time,” he explained. And, as we mentioned earlier, the definition of a vessel is pretty loose!
This is a really specific circumstance because if you're on an air mattress just floating on still water in a pool or lake, you might not be considered to be navigating. As for floating down the Bow River on a hot summer’s day, “Criminal code is the ultimate legal statute that carries the highest penalties and you’re liable to that,” Robertson-More told us.
In addition to liquor-related fines, you can also be charged $500 for not wearing a life jacket. Calgary police do not take this lightly. In fact, Robertson-More told us that the top three contributors to drowning while boating are not wearing a life jacket, cold water, and the consumption of alcohol. So, a combination of the three are beyond risky.
Marine unit acting Sgt. Alasdair Robertson-More says that he’d love to see Calgarians out on the river enjoying themselves, but that you should “leave the alcohol at home.”
If you're curious how best to navigate the waters in Calgary, check out the City's water safety guidelines.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.