Canada’s Legal Drinking Age
For most of the country, a person can buy and drink alcohol at the age of 18 years old. In provinces like Alberta, Quebec, and Manitoba, underage drinking is allowed for 17-year-old teens as long as it is done under the supervision of parents in their residence. On the other hand, in provinces like Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Northwest Territories, you can also buy and drink alcohol when you reach the age of 19 years old. In some cases, underage drinking is permitted under parental supervision at home, but it does not allow drinking for the other minors who are guests in the said home.
Underage Drinking in Canada
Underage drinking is something that most parents will expect may happen to their children at some point during their adolescent life. Children, teens, and young adults will be exposed to alcohol frequently throughout their life, whether this is through pop culture, within stores, restaurants, advertising, and watching their parents consume alcohol. This is not saying that every child grows up to become an alcoholic or heavy drinker, but rather to point out that alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs by Canadians. The information the child, teen, or young adult receives about alcohol among other things, is what will determine the choices they make with alcohol. The Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction put together a Canadian Drug Summary in the fall of 2017. Some of the key points gathered did report that the risky use or even use of alcohol by juveniles and young adults has been on the decline within the last few years within Canada. Much of the data that was gathered in 2014, and 2015 indicated that the onset of early drinking among underage boys and girls happened at the age of 13. The statistics from 2010 onwards to 2015 do show that alcohol use among students in grades 7 through 12 is on the decline, among boys and girls within Canada. Despite these statistics looking at the overall picture within Canada, each province and territory do report different numbers regarding information surrounding underage drinking. When looking at the volume of alcohol consumed by people ages 15 years old or older, there are significant variations in the total recorded per-capital alcohol consumption. Within the territories, the Yukon has the highest per-capita consumption, and Nunavut has the lowest. Among the provinces, Alberta has the highest per-capita consumption, and New Brunswick does have the lowest. Within Canada, over 70 percent of youth and young adults ages 15 to 24 reported using alcohol in the past year when this survey was taken. However, only 20 percent of those who were 15 years or older exceeded the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines put out by Canada Health.
Why Allow Underage Drinking?
Some people believe that individuals who were raised to drink responsibly are less likely to develop alcohol drinking and alcohol dependence problems when they reach adulthood. Because they do not see alcohol as a tool for rebellion, they are able to learn to drink within safe limits. Although such a belief might make sense, it still does not remove the possibility that some of these teens could have alcohol abuse issues later in life.
Although the legal drinking age is lower in Canada, it is surprising that more students drink in moderation compared to American students. In fact, only 42 percent of students in Canada drank heavily at least once time in a week while there is 54 percent of students in America, did the same. The percentage of drunk-driving fatalities is almost the same in Canada and the US in 1998.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Underage Drinking?
It is important to understand that youth are particularly at risk of developing physical and mental health problems caused by the negative effects of alcohol. Youth and teen brains are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, and the brain is still essentially developing until a person reaches the age of 25. People who care for youth, whether it be family, friends, parents, or caregivers, must understand that they play a major role in how the child is influenced. Typically, underage drinking will start because the child has extensive exposure to alcohol through family and friends, and within these social situations and family contexts, a positive or negative message will be provided and observed by the child. There is no escaping that alcohol is a part of Canada’s culture and society, but it is the responsible use by adults, education, and current information about alcohol that will help prevent underage drinking. Youth and teens will become curious about alcohol, what it is, what it does, and why people use it. It is this information, the people around them who influence them, and their environment that will determine if they choose to use alcohol and if they use alcohol responsibly. Most parents will know that their children will start to ask questions, especially if they see their parents consume alcohol in excess or witness the people around them consume alcohol in excess. Because of this, it is essential that as parents, the proper information is given to youth and teens about the negative effects of alcohol, what it does, and how it can impact the user’s physical and mental health. Alcohol is the most consumed substance in Canada, but more is being done to keep people informed, promote responsible consumption, and prevent underage drinking in Canada.