The open liquor law


Europeans do it differently, but should we?

Go to pretty much any country in Europe and you’ll find that drinking alcohol from an open container in public, although not necessarily common place, is perfectly acceptable. Try doing that in Antigonish and you’ll face a $467 fine.


Not only does Europe have a relaxed alcohol purchase age (16-18) on average, their entire attitude toward drinking is mellow. For example, in many European countries, it is illegal for children to buy alcohol yet it isn’t illegal for them to consume it.

If a German teenager has a beer on the street, the police will walk right by. If a teenager, or an adult for that matter, did the same thing in Nova Scotia, the RCMP would have a ticket ready to go.

This really begs the question: why do we take alcohol so seriously in this country when other nations and cultures seem to be perfectly okay with its use and prevalence in public?

One reason that comes to mind is safety. For example, here in Antigonish there is a high population of university students. Open liquor laws exist to curtail 5,000 young adults from being sloshed in the streets.

Yet, are open liquor laws actually making us safer? Does stopping someone from walking from their house to a party with an open beer increase safety?

I think not. I think the university student demographic doesn’t cause real issues when they drink in public getting from point A to point B or at a festivity. In that regard, open liquor laws are a nuisance and serve no purpose other than to get the municipality money.

Open liquor laws, however, do prevent “seasoned alcoholics” from being publicly intoxicated and causing trouble for residents and business alike.

That being said though, a fine of $467 even for a first offence is completely ridiculous. How is a university student or someone with a chronic drinking problem supposed to afford that?

A fine of that amount will only cause the offender to push their court date back, and back, and back again. The only thing this accomplishes is wasting the court’s and the RCMP’s time. If the fine was minimal, people would be more willing to pay it.

The European view of public intoxication is that it is a fact of life. New Year’s Day of 2016, people were passed out in the middle of the street in Manchester, England in that iconic viral photo. These people did not face hefty fines or legal action, they just got a nice visit from paramedics.

Oktoberfest is one well-known giant gathering of publicly intoxicated folks, and obviously no one received a ticket there.

Curtailing the problems of irresponsible drinking in Canada can only come about by moving towards a more European attitude.

Parents who never let their kids drink and who only educate them in terms of alcohol by saying, “drinking is bad, never do it,” are raising the kids you see get carted away in ambulances during frosh week because it’s their first experience and have no idea how much they can handle.

In France, for example, it’s culturally normal for parents to provide wine to kids as young as 12. This is probably the best way to educate kids on alcohol from a young age, and teach them responsibility.

By no means am I an advocate of breaking the law and promoting underage drinking, but I am an advocate of accepting reality. A lot of 18 year olds in Nova Scotia will drink alcohol. Ticketing underage drinkers and fining even those who are legal because they have an open container is absurd.

The municipality isn’t trying to keep us safe, they’re trying to profit from us. Yes, the law is the law and it shouldn’t be broken, but some laws are so asinine that it’s okay to pretend you’re European for a night.