What Age Can You Drink in Canada?

No party is complete without alcohol. But drinking isn’t for everyone, even in a liberal place like Canada. Like all countries, Canada also has restrictions on the drinking age. So, at what age can you drink in Canada?

The drinking age in Canada is between 18 and 19, depending on the province. In Manitoba, Quebec, and Alberta, it’s 18. It’s 19 for every other place in the country. This law exists to prevent underage abuse. Everyone, including international visitors, needs a government-issued ID to buy alcohol.

Canada’s drinking age means that the age at which you can drink here is lower than that of the United States, 21. It also means that while you might not buy a drink in British Columbia due to being 18, you could get the same drink in Quebec. Here, we examine the laws regarding alcohol consumption as a whole in Canada.

Legal Drinking Age in Canada

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age in Canada is either 18 or 19, depending on which province or territory you find yourself in. In Alberta, Quebec, and Manitoba, anyone that’s up to 18 can drink alcohol. However, for Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, and Nova Scotia, you have to be 19 before you can get a drink.

The legal drinking age was 20 or 21 before the 1970s when provinces and territories lowered to align with the age of majority, i.e., the age one becomes an adult. Initially, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Prince Edward Island all had 18 as their legal drinking age. Still, they later raised it to 19 due to increased alcohol consumption by underage students and the risks attached to such behaviour.

Why Does Canada Have a Minimum Drinking Age

The essence of the legal drinking age is to protect children and adolescents from the risks associated with alcohol. Alcohol is one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity among youths and young adults between 10 and 24 years. In addition, for adolescents and young adults, evidence abounds pointing to the mental and physical harm that drinking could cause.

Beyond that, alcohol could also encourage more dangerous behaviours as it causes intoxication, which lowers inhibition, impair judgement, blurs vision, and could even lead to a blackout. Constant consumption also causes liver damage, heart diseases, brain damage, and increased risks to some cancers.

Heavy Alcohol consumption also has impacts on society and families. It could lead to reduced productivity, disruption in certain aspects of one’s life, among others. Crimes have also been linked to alcohol consumption on multiple occasions.

All these explain why there’s a minimum drinking age to reduce the harms associated with drinking, especially among underage people. The MLDA is also referred to as the minimum purchasing age because until you’re up to this age, you can’t purchase alcohol in Canada.

What Do You Need to Buy Alcohol in Canada?

In order to purchase alcohol in Canada, you’ll need to present a government-issued ID that proves your age. You can use all government-issued means of identification since the goal is to prove that you’re up to the legal drinking age. Thus, you can use your driver’s license, government-issued ID card, passport, passport card, etc. The ID card should have your name, picture, and date of birth to be valid.

You can also use a secondary means of identification such as a student ID card, work ID card, or even your credit card to verify your government-issued means of identification.

Effect of the Varying Drinking Age in Canada

Laws and policies don’t have extraterritorial effects, and this couldn’t be any truer than when it comes to the minimum drinking age. The drinking age that will apply would be the one for the province where you find yourself regardless of the ID card that you’re using to buy alcohol. Thus, anyone who is up to 18 years can buy alcohol in Quebec, even if they’re actually from Ontario or British Columbia.

The minimum drinking age in Canada also extends to visitors from other countries. For example, if you’re visiting from somewhere like the United States, where the legal drinking age is 21, you’ll still be able to buy and drink alcohol in Canada as long as you’re 18 or 19. The MLDA for the United States doesn’t apply in Canada, and neither is that of Canada applicable in the United States.

Can International Visitors Buy Alcohol in Canada?

Visitors from the US and other countries can buy alcohol in Canada using their government-issued ID. For travellers, the most likely means of identification they’ll have is the passport, and they can use this to purchase alcohol. The most important thing is to meet the legal drinking age of either 18 or 19, depending on which province you find yourself in.

Laws on Alcohol Consumption in Canada

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age is in place to prevent underage alcohol consumption. This limits the risks associated with improper drinking. However, even if you’re up to the legal drinking age, there are still risks associated with improper alcohol consumption. That’s why there are laws in place to prevent abuse.

Generally, each province and territory have their regulations on alcohol. Examples include British Columbia Liquor Control and Licensing Act, Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, Manitoba Liquor Control Act, Ontario Liquor License Act, etc. Regardless of provincial laws which stipulate crimes and consequences, certain acts are illegal. They include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Drinking or being in possession of alcohol while you’re below the legal drinking age
  • Using a fake ID to enter a drinking establishment or buy alcohol
  • Buying or serving alcohol to a person who is below the legal drinking age

In Conclusion

The legal drinking age in Canada is either 18 or 19, depending on which province you find yourself in. Only Manitoba, Quebec, and Alberta have 18 as the MLDA. For all other territories and provinces, it’s 19.

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