with files from Indiegogo.com
Once upon a time all things were legal. Then people prudently decided that perhaps this was not a good thing, so laws were passed to make certain nasty things illegal, to protect individuals and society as a whole, and/or to benefit certain political and or business interests. As societies and their governments changed, and became more (or less) enlightened, the laws they enacted reflected these ideological changes. For example, Prohibition in the U.S. and Canada enacted laws in both countries, catering to special interest groups in the name of protecting society. This “Noble Experiment” did not last long (praise be!). Cooler heads prevailed and prohibition was repealed based on the will of the majority.
Laws like this always seem to be in a state of flux, imperfection and experimentation. The laws concerning marijuana, for example are a work in progress and are vastly imperfect and confusing. To add to the confusion, some things are legal federally, but still hog-tied provincially: the transportation of beer across borders is now legal federally , but the amounts you can take across provincial borders vary from province to province.
“The amendment removes the federal barrier prohibiting individuals from moving beer from one province to another when it is for their personal use. While the federal impediment has been removed, there is no change to the province’s authority to set limits on personal importations of beer.”- CRA
Which brings us to the perplexing case of Gerard Comeau, who, in 2012 was charged with violating New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act and fined $292.50
Mr. Comeau was stopped in Campbellton, New Brunswick just after crossing the bridge spanning the Quebec-New Brunswick border. He had been followed by the RCMP while he made two stops to buy liquor in Quebec. He was charged with violating the ban on bringing in more than 12 pints of beer or liquor from an out-of-province source (per s. 43 of the Act). As a New Brunswick resident, you can legally buy larger amounts only from a New Brunswick Liquor Corporation store. This crown corporation holds a legally enforced monopoly on liquor sales in the province, and it effectively protects its monopoly across provincial borders through the Liquor Control Act’s prohibitions on importation.-CCF
Though his purchase of the beer was entirely legal, he was fined for having the temerity to bring more than 12 pints back to NB from Quebec. Twelve good, thirteen bad! If your head isn’t spinning by now, check this out to see how the laws vary from province to province. Imagine you’re on your “bucket list” Cross-Canada drive, tooting along in your R.V., listening to the Tragically Hip, Haywire, Great Big Sea…and an RCMP constable pulls you over. Will you get smacked with a fine for having more than 1.14 litres of beer from another province in your van? (in Newfoundland you will!)
The kicker is that it has always been legal to bring beer and other goods from province to province, as outlined in section 121 of our constitution dating back to 1867:
“121. All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”
Basically this right has been flouted willy-nilly by provincial governments since the 1920’s in order to protect their government monopoly sales agencies.
Mr. Comeau has decided to fight this injustice and not pay this fine. His case (as it were) has been taken up by the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), an independent and non-partisan registered charity whose mission it is to “…protect the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through education, communication and litigation.”
The CCF and Indiegogo are crowdfunding for Mr Comeau, and fighting to bring our laws in line with the Canadian Constitution. Indiegogo is offering very cool perks for donations to the cause to free us from these arcane and unconstitutional assaults on our freedoms. And our beers.