Legal Information Column, Student Life

How to stay out of trouble while drinking: A rundown of the rules

It’s the start of a new school year and the season of back-to-school parties—a time to make new friends and catch up with old ones. Getting hit with a fine in the process, however, is no one’s idea of a fun Saturday night. The Legal Information Clinic at McGill has provided some rules to keep in mind as you make the most of the precious few weeks before midterms hit–no tickets or court dates involved.


Know the law–and don’t get caught breaking it

Frosh is freshly over and you’ve just taken off your black bracelet–but remember that the laws for underage drinking still apply. For minors, there can be consequences for not following Quebec’s alcohol consumption laws. The legal drinking age in Quebec is 18 years old; as a province-wide rule, this means that anyone below the age of 18 is not  permitted to purchase or consume alcohol. Anyone may be asked to prove that they are of age in order to purchase an alcoholic beverage, to be admitted to places that serve alcohol–like bars, clubs, and pubs–or to stay on the terrace of such an establishment after 8 p.m. If you’re under 18 and wish to remain at a club, bar, or pub after 8 p.m., the law requires the accompaniment of a parent or legal guardian. And fun fact: It is explicitly forbidden to impersonate a minor’s parent or legal guardian.

Before you or a friend consider using a fake ID, know that minors are not permitted to falsely represent their age in order to purchase alcoholic beverages. Minors who break these rules may be fined up to $100, so ditch the fake ID. If a minor wishes to contest this fine, they bear the burden of proving to a court that they were of full age at the moment they received the fine—a nearly impossible task.


Taking the party to the park

OAP may be over, but the desire to drink during the last of Montreal’s fine weather remains. However, alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed in public areas, except when they accompany a meal in a park. In some Quebec laws, “meal” is defined, for the purposes of consuming alcohol, as “food sufficient to constitute a person’s lunch or dinner.” Drinking alcohol accompanied by food is only allowed in parts of a park where the City of Montreal has installed picnic tables, though it is not necessary to dine at a table. As a rule of thumb, if you see picnic tables around, it is safe to eat and drink there. The mandate that requires food with open alcohol applies to the boroughs of Plateau-Mont-Royal and Ville-Marie–an area which includes the downtown campus–Parc du Mont-Royal, Parc Jeanne-Mance, Parc La Fontaine, and the Milton-Parc neighbourhood.

If you do plan to take your party to the park, there are some other rules to consider. Montreal’s major parks—which include Parc du Mont-Royal, Parc Jeanne-Mance, and Parc La Fontaine—are open to the public from 6 a.m. to midnight. Outside of opening hours, it is forbidden to be in parks, except when the city or borough in which you live issues a permit to hold an event, per your request. Smaller parks are run by the various boroughs within Montreal, each with their own opening hours, which are generally posted at the park’s entrance. Being in parks past their hours–especially if you have alcohol–may lead to a fine of $100 to $150 for a first offense, with fines of up to $1,000 for any further infractions.

The Legal Information Clinic at McGill (LICM) is a free, confidential, and bilingual legal information service run by law students. In accordance with Article 128 of the Act Respecting the Barreau du Quebec, student-volunteers provide information, not legal advice.

From the team at the LICM, we wish you a fun and safe back-to-school season. We hope that this information helps you make responsible decisions about your own alcohol consumption.

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