Manitoba hikes underage drinking fines

Fines for people who sell to or buy alcohol for a person under 18 have soared in Manitoba, more than doubling in most cases.

Fines for people who sell to or buy alcohol for a person under 18 have soared in Manitoba, more than doubling in most cases.

And those who use fake ID cards to buy booze or get into a bar will also be paying a steep price if they are caught.

The fines, which take effect immediately, give the province some of the highest penalties in the country, said Family Services and Consumer Affairs Minister Gord Mackintosh.

"Manitoba has become a leader among Canadian jurisdictions in sending a clear message to those who facilitate underage drinking," said Mackintosh.

For people who sell to or buy alcohol for a minor, the fine will increase from $1,260.30 to a minimum of $2,000. The minimum fine for a corporation that sells to or buys alcohol for minors is $5,000.

The fine for minors who attempt to purchase alcohol using false identification or who are in possession of or consume alcohol will increase from $292.65 to $655.65.

The same fine applies to anyone attempting to purchase liquor or enter a bar by using false identification.

First announced in March

Mackintosh first announced the provincial government's intention to increase fines in early March as a measure to address underage drinking.

"In addition to the immediate harms that can occur to children who drink, underage drinking has a steep social cost," he said.

"Research shows that children who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependencies later in life."

A 2009 Health Survey report of 34,000 Manitoba youth revealed 36 per cent of students surveyed indicated they had consumed alcohol at lease once in the past 30 days, and 34 per cent reported they had engaged in binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks in one sitting).

The report also indicated that 20 per cent of Grade 9 students engaged in binge drinking at least once in the previous month, with the percentage of reported binge drinking increasing to 51 per cent for Grade 12 students.

Underage drinking summit

In addition to increasing the fines, Mackintosh said the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) would host a summit on the issue of underage drinking this fall.

The summit will address access to alcohol by minors, social norms, parental control, legislation, enforcement, community involvement and public education. The date and location for the summit has yet to be released.

The MLCC hopes it will attract representation from parent councils and youth groups, police, government and health agencies.

In the past decade, the MLCC has been actively involved in a number of public information and education programs aimed at youth, Mackintosh noted.

The Be the Influence program, which provides tips and discussion points to help parents talk to their children about alcohol, is available online or in a free booklet at Manitoba Liquor Marts.

The Show Your Age program requires young adults to show valid photo identification when purchasing alcohol in retail outlets and licensed premises while the Be Undrunk program addresses binge drinking by young adults on a website.