Not so hard times

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Is minimum-security prison like summer camp effective?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 23, 2016

What if I told you that there are prisoners—murderers—who were having a better day than you? You would be pretty upset, right? And you aren’t even the victim or the victim’s family and friends. For many, hearing that criminals are having “easy” times as a punishment is an injustice. It’s almost as bad as hearing that they got off free.

This is the case from a recent report by Erin O’Toole, a Federal Conservation public safety critic. She went on to describe a minimum-security prison in BC as being akin to “summer camp.” These prisons are fortified with a recreation centre, tennis courts, and baseball diamonds. In addition, this prison is located in arguably one of the most beautiful regions of the province, with mountain and ocean views.

Now, I know that prisons are not meant to be inhumane torture chambers, they are meant to be more of a rehabilitation centre, where the convict can receive the necessary assistance and treatment so that they may be led back into normal society, where they can contribute in a meaningful way. Whether this is happening more effectively in a comfortable environment is something the victims of the prisoners’ crimes are extremely skeptical and upset about.

The balancing act of trying to find the punishment to fit the crime is not an easy task. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to make sure that the end result is the “right” result. With the case of summer camp prisons, many believe that the criminals are getting off too easily. Some are even feeling that the prisoners are in fact getting some sort of luxury treatment. For murderers, that type of punishment doesn’t only make light of the heinous act… it almost appears as though the punishment encourages it.

There is a lot to like in our country, but one must admit that our justice system is still full of holes. What we have is often called a “revolving door” criminal system, where criminals go to jail for their crime, endure the hospitable environment, and return to normal society only to recommit the crime. This type of in-and-out prison—a lot like summer camp—does not solve the bigger problem. It doesn’t instill fear or teach repercussions. It’s merely a pause button for criminals. It stalls them from the next crime, like summer camp stalls us from our studies.

The punishment should always fit the crime, but I ask you this: Do the kids who get detention every week really learn from their poor decisions? Probably not, they just become acclimatized to the world they live in. They never change; they merely adapt. They accept that detention is a part of their life. Compared to many, it’s not that bad of a life. To change someone, you must really change their environment, and so it goes with murderers.

Americans want to move to Canada if Trump wins

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It’s so American to abandon a problem they’ve caused

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 17, 2016

Whether it’s meant as fodder for comedy or as a legitimate survey, the American people sounded off. According to a poll conducted by Ipsos, 19 per cent of Americans said they would move to Canada if Donald Trump wins presidency, and 15 per cent would do the same if Hillary wins.

As a Canadian, I first thought this was a compliment, since we do call one of the most livable countries in the world home. Sure, we have our own problems, but compared to America’s, our issues seem so fixable.

Then, I thought a bit more about it, and realized it was not a compliment to Canada. If Americans idolized Canada, America would be like Canada. No, like an angsty teenager threatening to run away from home, Americans are doing the same when they are not getting what they want. Grow up, I say. The problem is not going to fix itself if you just run away from it. Time and time again, Americans are dealt a heavy lesson and seldom do they learn from it. Just watch the American news; it’s the same episode every day. It’s history repeating itself.

I digress. At this moment, less than one per cent of Canada is made up of American immigrants. That is an insignificant amount—and usually we see Canadians crossing the border south rather than the other way around.

Yes, perhaps the Americans feel like victims, but give me a break. Resorting to flight instead of fight is no way to solve a country-sized problem. If a country is your home and you feel passionately enough about the politics that govern it, you’d fight for what’s best.

Instead of trying to piggy back off of us Canadians, why don’t you try to learn from us? In 2015, we went through a pivotal election that ousted the Right Honourable—and backwards thinking—Stephen Harper from his seat as prime minister. During the campaign, the country was divided, but we banded together to do what’s best on Election Day. Some of us might have threatened to move to Switzerland or somewhere else if Harper won, but many took to the polls to vote, not necessarily for the candidate they believed in, but the candidate that would beat Harper’s Conservative party. It was strategic, and it worked.

Democracy is your right; however, welcoming yourself to someone else’s home is not. Americans, known for their arrogance and self-righteousness, often thinks that the whole world belongs to them. They think that Canada is their little brother, who, if their get-rich-fast plan falls through, will let them just crash at their place until they get their footing back.

It doesn’t surprise me that Americans would consider moving up north, but it would surprise me if they actually do. Like government, like citizens—if you talk the talk, then you better walk the walk.

Dear refugees from Vietnam

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My advice for new immigrants

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published for the 1976-themed issue of the Other Press. January 13, 2016

A few years ago, my mother’s side of the family emigrated to Canada, France, and the United States from their home country, which had been torn apart by the Vietnam War, in the hope of starting a new life. So here I am now. What my family went through must have been tumultuous and frightening. Hopefully they can put those experiences in the past.

The following is some advice I have to give to not just my family, but to all immigrants, from all over the world, because there is so much to learn in this new world.

Language: One of the first things I would tell them is how important proficiency in English is. It’s true that Canada is a multicultural country, but only in select parts of it. The majority of Canada is still predominantly English speaking. Having a strong command in English is the first step to getting work that isn’t in a kitchen or warehouse.

Owning property: Homeless to homeowner in a few years. It can happen. This is the country of opportunity. Get a job, save up, and buy property. Invest in the suburbs surrounding the urban core, where property prices are very reasonable for families. Canada loves immigrants, and our population will surely boom, thus increasing the value over time.

Travel: I don’t believe travel is a practice you learn in your latter years. I think it is the best form of education both personally and socially. I understand that being immigrants means that at one point they were put through an arduous trip, but traveling in all forms is an opportunity for growth. My family members are citizens of Canada now, but they could be citizens of the world (even though there is much to see in Canada).

Hobbies: In developing countries, hobbies are for survival. In the developed countries, hobbies are for survival too, but in a more personal way. In this new world, my family works, comes home, watches television, goes to sleep, and repeats those steps. They don’t have hobbies per se. My mom is a practicing Buddhist, so she is a part of some communities, but she doesn’t have any personal projects—except for raising me, I guess. I believe personal projects, be they reading books, building miniatures, learning to cook, or working on puzzles, are a substantial record of accomplishments. Finding an area of interest to focus on helps create an identity, not just for other people to view you, but how you view yourself.

Refugees, like my mom, are still finding homes and creating their lives in Canada. They walk among us every day. In this country, there is so much freedom, and I wouldn’t want any new citizen to squander it by living only to pay their bills.

What is war (and I) good for? Absolutely nothing!

U.S. marines fire on a group of insurgents shortly after they launched a rocket propelled grenade at their 7-ton truck while on a 'movement-to-contact mission in order to flush out insurgents operating in the Fallujah area  south of Fallujah on Thursday, April 15, 2004 in Iraq.  The marines are part of the 3rd Battalion, 4th marine regiment, which saw heavy combat at the beginning of the war last year, and is now back in Iraq embroiled in intense fighting with the resistance.  Today, the men of the 3rd Battalion were ambushed half a dozen times while they patrolled the palm groves and wheat fields around fallujah, and the marines killed at least 10 insurgents, and suffered only minor injuries. (Credit: Lynsey Addario/ Corbis, for The New York Times)

Would I become a soldier if there was a war to fight?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 11, 2015

There was a time when refusing to fight in a war was an act of cowardice. Conscientious objectors were often shunned for being “unpatriotic” and “disgraceful.” Many of them in the past were even considered criminals. Thank god we don’t live in those times anymore. As Remembrance Day approaches, I’m often left with a bitter, remorseful feeling, because I know, I’ll never make such a sacrifice—I won’t!

Those who serve on the front line today demand respect. However, that does not necessary make them “heroes.” The way I see it, it makes them victims. I respect them not because of their training, but how their training and their experiences have corrupted them. Hate begets hate. War does not elevate kindness, tolerance, and benevolence in people; it pulverizes it with fear and righteousness. Post-traumatic stress disorder is chalked up as a workplace hazard for soldiers like carpal tunnel is for office workers.

We are currently living in the most peaceful time in the history of humanity. Yes, there are countless wars taking place on this planet, but most of them are civil wars or wars between countries separated by a thin border, far from where I am. These wars are feuds between neighbours that have lasted generations upon generations. If I were to pick a battle to fight, it would be an intrusion. Me sticking my nose in something I truly don’t understand.

One nearsighted saying I hear from those who are willing to join the army is this: I fight so my children won’t have to. First off, your children will do whatever the hell they want to; they’re their lives. Secondly, if you truly care about your children, you should teach them acceptance, rather than aggression. Teach them that there is more to a war than simply good guys fighting bad guys. Thirdly, if you think there is anything to gain from becoming a pawn, you are right, there is. There is a lot of profit, but don’t be surprised if it all goes to corporations—not to you or your children.

It might sound selfish of me to say that I wouldn’t defend my country. But what does it mean to defend my country? Does it mean entering someone else’s home and killing innocent people there until I find the few that are doing wrong to the true north strong and free? I hope not. In Canada, wherever we send our troops, we say we they are there for “peacekeeping” reasons. I don’t know how peaceful I can be waltzing into a battle zone.

We need to appear strong in the face of adversity. We need to have muscle so that the world at large won’t push us around. But the thing I never understood about our military, and those of our allies, is this: How will our guns stop their guns? How will our blood wash away their blood?

I’ll support our troops by taking off my hat during ceremonies, but man, there has got to be a better way.

Why Drug-Impaired Driving May Be a Huge Problem in Canada

Posted by  | November 04, 2014 |
Formerly published in Unhaggle.com

Why Drug-Impaired Driving May Be a Huge Problem in Canada

Impaired driving is dangerous; it doesn’t matter if it’s caused by fatigue, alcohol or drugs, because you are taking an unnecessary risk one way or another. Although it’s true that drugs, such as marijuana, affect each person differently, it’s also true that from 1999 to 2010 drug-related fatalitieshave almost doubled. The question is why. Here are some theories:

There Are No Proper Regulations

Law enforcers have done certainly much to deter drivers from driving drunk, but they still have trouble discovering and implementing the most effective measure for stopping drug-impaired drivers from grabbing their keys and getting behind the wheel. Canada has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure that law officials attend unique drug-recognition training courses. However, the program is not believed to have reached its full potential when it comes to catching and actually convicting impaired drivers.

Many Think It’s Okay to Drive High

While drinking and driving is taboo, driving under the influence of drugs still somehow goes under the radar, and that’s problematic. The attitude of drivers needs to change, especially among younger ones, who have always shown a more carefree mentality when operating a vehicle. In a study conducted by Drug Free Canada, one in three teenagers considers smoking marijuana and driving to be less dangerous than drinking and driving, which is not very comforting. Driving requires a lot of attention, and a sudden lapse of judgement for whatever reason can be deadly on the road.

In order to change this reckless attitude, lawmakers in North America, Australia and certain countries in Europe have implemented a legal limit of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – in some parts of the U.S., it’s five nanograms per millilitre of blood – as well as protocols for officers to perform when they suspect the driver to be under the influence of drugs. One method practiced in Norway and Australia involves requesting oral fluid samples from drivers, which can be obtained with a quick roadside test that involves licking or swabbing of the tongue.

By giving officers more resources to catch drug-impaired drivers, the mentality of people may eventually change.

Drug Users Are Not Punished Enough

There are many reasons why our society frowns upon drinking and driving, and one of those reasons is the fact that the police categorizes the  as a high-priority issue. Why else would they have roadblocks, breathalysers and other sobriety tests? Because drinking and driving is very obviously illegal.

Some political parties believe that the whole penalty system should change so that drug-impaired drivers could receive punishment equal to those who drink and drive. The Transportation Minister of Ontario, Steven Del Duca, believes that implementing roadside suspensions, mandatory education or treatment, an ignition interlock condition and a seven-day vehicle impoundment are some of the first important steps to take in order to convince the public of the severity of drug use.

“And when you look at the statistics, in 2011 for example, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 46 per cent of all collisions involving vehicles that resulted in deaths had individuals who were either under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol,” says Del Duca.

In Canada 2012, however, only 1,126 drug-impaired driving charges were laid, which makes up 2 per cent of all annual impaired driving charges (alcohol-impairment charges exceed 60,000). The inability to confidently confirm impairment on the scene has led to many challenges for those wanting to see an end to drug-impaired driving. This is mainly because the technology used for catching drunk drivers does not work on drug users.

So What Can Help Us?

Law enforcers could definitely benefit from a few technological innovations. Breathalysers have changed the way officers charge drunk drivers, and as such, we need a device that can do the same for drivers who are high. The Cannabix Breathalyser might be the solution. In less than a few minutes, this hand-held device, conceived by BC-based company West Point Resources, can accurately detect whether a person has consumed marijuana or not. Given its success rate, this new technology could also act as another deterrent for anyone who is thinking of using drugs before driving.

Generally speaking, the point is not to argue whether smoking weed is better or worse than drinking a couple of beers – the point is to reduce fatalities. And in order to do that, drivers need to change their mindsets, while politicians and lawmakers have to reconsider their approach and provide law enforcers with better technology. It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely doable!

O ‘it’s not a big deal’ Canada

Image via AP / Petr David Josek

Russians walk off the ice, Canadians should shake it off

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. June 2, 2015

We won. They acted like poor sports—or as they put it, they made a “mistake.” After the annual World Hockey Championship, with the Canadians beating the Russians 6-1, the majority of the losing team skated off the ice as “O Canada” began to play. Whether it was an act of disappointment, bad sportsmanship, or political displeasure, it didn’t look good for the organization and the individual players. Still, there is nothing more awful than being forced to watch someone else celebrate, especially after getting plastered.

I have played hockey games—not at the international level, but still competitively—and I know how it feels to want something and then have someone beat you for it. Fuck them, right? I’ve shaken their hands, I’ve congratulated them, and now you want me to stand patiently while they sing their silly national song? We lost. Let me leave. What more do you want?

I get it. There is a patriotic aspect to international sports; that is why the Olympics and World Cups are so popular. But we don’t need the opposition to look sad while our song plays. Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of national anthems at sporting events altogether. I’ve heard “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” so many times they’ve lost all meaning.

The act made the team look like they had “no class” as Don Cherry would say. We all know what type of player Ilya Kovalchuk is, and the fact that he led the way was no surprise. But let’s not forget about the players that stayed on the ice, including superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Hockey is a team sport, but sportsmanship is an individual game. If you are going to punish anyone, punish the players individually, not the whole organization.

Then again, what punishment would fit, especially during this heated tumultuous time between North America and Russia? Hockey may be the glue that keeps people together, but it is not a Band-Aid for international problems. Punish players, but don’t punish the game of hockey. It’d be a shame to see Russia banned from the tournament next year. It would be a shame if we couldn’t beat them again next year.

For now, I’m happy giving the Russians the benefit of a doubt. In the heat of the moment, people do things that are in poor taste, but in the long run, nobody was hurt. So whatever, our national anthem wasn’t for them anyways.

Unhaggle | Why Raising Maximum Speed Limits in Canada is a Bad Idea

Written and researched by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | June 02, 2014 |

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The speed limits for major cities in Canada lie in a gray area, with law enforcers and commuters being keenly aware that few drivers actually obey the rules. Most tend to exceed the speed limit in order to keep up with the flow of traffic. Whether you’re driving a sports car like a Viper or a hatchback like a Yaris, you are probably driving “too fast.” Therefore any vehicle has the potential of violating the limit without firm conviction that they have done anything out of the norm.

And that is what causes frustration for the majority of drivers, especially those that get pulled over.

An ambiguous law or a law enforced without consistency is not only a nuisance, but also a blemish on society. Determining and understanding the thin line between acceptable and criminal is a large step toward mitigating accidents, recklessness and ignorance. But should the speed limit actually be increased?

Speeding or excessive speeding?

Although speeding is a major problem, most drivers generally follow the pack. If the pack travels safely at 70 km/h in a 50 km/h max zone, it is not the drivers who need to change; it is the law that should be reconsidered. Right? Not necessarily.

It seems that a speed limit is a very subjective thing. When it comes to the comfort of a driver, many consider it safer to drive a bit faster than to drag behind on a freeway. It’s important to note that police understand this phenomenon as well, and often only pull drivers over who are “excessively” speeding; that is not just keeping up with traffic, but aggressively challenging it—changing lanes and slipping through—trying to break ahead of the pack.

To raise the limit to 70 km/h in a former 50 km/h zone may give many less-skilled drivers anxiety, while bumping up the excessive speed limit to 90 km/h, instead of a steady 70 km/h. The excessive speeders will simply go faster, causing an even riskier outcome.

What other countries are doing differently?

Many developed countries have reputations for being safe places to drive, including Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden to name a few. In 2009 rankings done by the World Health Organization, Canada was ranked 25th out of 178 countries with the least amount of traffic-related fatalities. Why aren’t we number one? What can be changed?

The countries ahead of Canada in the rankings don’t fine drivers more or have an unreasonable speed limit. Instead, those countries are stricter when it comes to drivers’ skill evaluations. Countries that enable drivers to operate a vehicle with minimal skill requirements tend to have the higher percentage of accidents. Safety features and road safety also play a major role, but if Canada would like to be ranked higher, we would not only need to change the behaviour of our drivers, but our educational standards as well. You can view the full list on this site.

Are there alternatives to adjusting the law?

Regulating traffic has changed a lot since the dawn of the automobile. Cameras and speed traps are often used to enforce the law. With the advances in technology, the Province of British Columbia, for example, has installed induction loops and speed counter-classifiers into the streets to measure traffic patterns. These additions record the speed of all the vehicles passing by, accumulating data such as traffic volume, daily speeds and the percentage of vehicles exceeding the speed limit. This information is then used for research.

Some believe that examining the problem is not good enough to solve it, however. Many indications show that with a consistent implementation of traffic laws 3,000 daily deaths worldwide could be avoided. Those who were caught speeding and suffered a severe fine or a light sentence are at a lower risk of being involved in a fatal accident.

Other researchers deem that going slowly and following the rules is the best way to advocate safety. SENSE BC, an organization built around the premise of educating drivers and not simply regulating them, considers a more liberal approach. On a graph entitled “Speed Variance and Crash Risk,” the stats show that collisions are actually more common at a slower speed. Most accidents are minimized when drivers are 10-15 km/h over the speed limit, which contradicts a lot of popular beliefs.

Are there other factors to consider?

Are low speed limits the real problem then? Or should we blame bad drivers, low-quality roads and poor weather conditions? Many factors come into play when an accident occurs—so it’s not simply the speed. Weather, time of day, negligence, etc. are all worth considering when an accident occurs. Having the speed limit where it offers room for flexibility is probably the best option at the moment.

Perhaps highway maximum speed limits can be adjusted based on factors like time of day, weather conditions or the driver’s skill level—like in the case of school or park zones. For example, we can have an 80-km/h limit during peak rush hours, a 100-km/h limit from dusk to dawn, etc.

When safety is at play, we shouldn’t take anything lightly. It’s natural for some to say that the speed limit should be raised, but there are too many drivers of different skill levels on the road to determine whether the implementation will actually improve the roads for some without hindering others.

Hotspots for happy campers

Parks Canada introduces Wi-Fi

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Originally published in the Other Press. May 5, 2o14

Canadians live for the wilderness, especially British Columbians. We anticipate our camping trips all winter long, and for many it’s our vacation from a stressful urban life. We want to escape our emails, our social media, and anything else linking us back to our offices and desks. Camping brings us back to the majesty of nature—and there is nothing natural about Wi-Fi.

The current initiative by Parks Canada is to install Internet into 150 national parks locations over the course of three years. While some spots will offer the Wi-Fi for free, others will charge a fee—either way, it is implemented so that visitors can stay connected with all their worries back home. How wonderful, right?

For those like me, who work mainly from the computer, having accessible Internet everywhere is a great commodity. But do I want to do work while I’m camping? Hell no! I always have this romantic idea of taking my work on vacation and doing it in the midst of travelling. I believe that type of work ethic is harmful to both the product and the worker. Separating work and play is essential to living a happy, healthy life. “I’m going camping” should still be a valid excuse for a break, even if Wi-Fi is available.

It is true that we are becoming addicted to our mobile devices, laptops, and other technology. Whether we are on social media or we are playing games, technology has proven that we no longer need to go outside or even converse with real life human beings. One can live perfectly happily from the confines of their home or office. If you think Wi-Fi in parks are going to get people outside, then you have missed the whole reason for being outside.

Going out into nature should be an opportunity to reconnect not with your digital devices, but with the world around you—the world you probably forgot while you were busy studying for your finals, or working overtime, or simply doing other things. There is a lot to see out there and you might miss something because you were too busy looking down at your phone.

Technology is excellent for bringing people together, but once people are together—at camp grounds for example—then it’s best to spend some quality time with them and not worry about others far away; there will be time for them later.

Parks Canada has stressed that there will be many places in the back country where Wi-Fi will probably never be enabled. That’s good, but the fact that so many outdoor locations will have accessible Wi-Fi scares me. What if one day Wi-Fi disappears and we can’t YouTube a video on how to build a fire or set up a tent? What will happen when we aren’t able to get lost in the beauty of Canada? What makes us Canadians great is the fact that we are survivors in the wilderness. Take pride in having a weekend where you go to the bathroom in the bushes, or cook meals from a can, or log off of the Internet, because in a world where we can take it or leave it, it’s always harder to leave it. Better memories go to those who take risks, so be a courageous camper and power off.

The test of time

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Longer life expectancy means less financial stability in the latter years

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

For those still in their roaring 20s, let’s think longterm for a moment—say, 40 years from now. The world has changed and so have you. You have a family, a mortgage, car payments, a stable job, ailing parents, credit card debt, medical bills, and multiple other financial responsibilities to worry about, yet retirement is around the corner. You ask yourself, “Am I ready for it? Have I saved enough? Or will the next 20 years be as gruelling as the first?”

Don’t act so surprised when I tell you that most millennials aren’t thinking about retirement—not because they don’t want to, but because they might not get one. We have been crippled by so many different factors, including increased taxes and cost of living, disappearing pensions, high educational debt, and a competitive job market. At this point, it’s hard to imagine life as a 40-year-old, let alone a 70-year-old.

It’s rare to see people hang up their work clothes at 55 nowadays. According to Statistics Canada, the average retirement age in 2011 was 63.2 for men and 61.4 for women. There are simply too many financial burdens, so every extra year of work adds a buffer to the savings account. If baby boomers are having such difficulty retiring, what about the millennials?

I’m not saying that we should call for a crisis or have the government hold our hands through this lifelong ordeal, but what would benefit us is a bit of systematic assistance. I suggest a mandatory test every decade to help with the retirement mathematics. The test would examine multiple factors, including financial stability, health, and family status. Although privacy is important, it’s critical that we learn to take care of ourselves, lest we become burdens on our family, friends, and society. This will break our fears and reluctance of taking out the “retirement calculators” and finding out how many dreadful zeros we’ll need in order to survive.

Retirement funds aren’t a problem we millennials can solve now. What we can do is stay the course, and even if there aren’t any implemented tests to assess our stability, we can still manage that ourselves. Don’t waste your youth worrying, but it never hurts to consider the necessities of your long life. A survey done by Pentegra Retirement Services found that 62 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds think $500,000 is enough for their retirement. The consensus is that number is too low. According to Statistics Canada, the current annual spending cost of a couple over 65 is $51,000, but for an enjoyable retirement they’ll need as much as $60,000 a year. The price will undoubtedly increase for us.

It might seem completely bleak at the moment, but allow us to go back to the short-term; we’re still young and we have full control of our lives. We’re packed with potential and opportunities are still knocking. If we don’t want to be eating peanut butter and jelly everyday in our old age, we can change that. Now is the time to get the upper hand. Rainy days and debts are inevitable, but hey, there’s a silver lining to those looming golden years.

In or out-cohol

Illustration by Ed Appleby

Illustration by Ed Appleby

Should public drinking be legalized?

Formerly published in The Other Press. June 4 2013

By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer

In British Columbia and all of Canada, except Quebec, public drinking is not only frowned upon, but illegal. If the sobering law catches you with “open liquor,” you can be charged with a $230 fine—that’s your monthly supply of booze down the drain. Vancouver is recognized around the world for its laid-back attitude, so why are we so uptight when it comes to drinking in public? Is the person walking down the street with an open bottle of Double Diamond any more dangerous than the guy walking down the street with a can of Dr. Pepper? How is binge drinking at home or in a bar any different from binge drinking at a park or at a beach?

If the argument against public drinking is that we’re living in a developed country and that respectable, classy people don’t consume alcohol in the open, consider this: the United Kingdom is as classy as it gets, and they allow drinking in the open. New Zealand, instead of banning “open liquor,” simply created alcohol-free zones, most often situated in business districts. And then we have the Japanese who, despite having public drinking and public intoxication, maintain consistent global dominance. If those societies can function with public drinking, why can’t ours?

What would a day in our life look like with people drinking alcohol in the streets and the parks? Those against public drinking might say that overconsumption in a public setting would cause rowdiness and violence, and without bouncers and bartenders to keep the drinkers in place, tragedy is more likely to occur. Meanwhile, the proponent of public drinking might say that it would normalize our attitude towards alcohol, creating a healthier drinking culture. After all, just because something is legal doesn’t mean people would abuse it. Naps are legal, but you still get out of bed at some point.

There are very few beautiful days in this city, and when we do get some sunlight peeking through the clouds, it would be a pleasure to enjoy a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or even a cocktail in the open without feeling like a criminal.

Liquor laws in BC are fickle; adhering to them is not only difficult for consumers, but also for proprietors. Local theatres such as the Rio on Broadway have been disputing with the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch since 2011, trying to incorporate live theatre, cinema, and liquor consumption. Sadly, LCLB only allows alcohol in live performances, not in movie theatres. “That’s what the province has told us. They’ve made it very clear,” owner and general manager Corinne Lea says. “With this application process we must now be a live venue exclusively.” Since then, Rio has transitioned back to a cinema and live theatre venue, omitting the liquor license.

This year, BC allowed catering companies to obtain liquor licenses to meet their clients’ needs. Before that, people hosting events with liquor required a special occasion license, to complete the Serve it Right course, to purchase and transport the liquor, and to accept all responsibility and liability for the liquor service.

Vancouver is a beautiful city, but the stress it puts on itself makes it an ugly place to live sometimes. While some might call it a First World problem, I disagree. A law that makes criminals out of decent people simply aiming to enjoy a gorgeous day with a harmless beverage is a social problem.