Over the past few months it’s become very apparent that Ontario has a serious drunk driving problem. Although the Marco Muzzo case is the one that’s the most publicized, there are scores of drunk driving arrests taking place in the province every day. The tide doesn’t seem to be turning for the better either.
Justice Colin Westman was behind the bench in Kitchener, Ontario on what should have been a regular Thursday, but he saw so many impaired drivers that day that he criticized society for promoting alcohol use. When it comes to Canada, he might not be far off the mark.
A recent report from the Chief Public Health Officer focused on alcohol consumption in Canada. Although it’s full of data detailing how drinking is adversely affecting Canadians, you don’t even have to dig into the details of the report to get the message. Right in the opening comments is the sentence, “Although handled more like a food in Canada, alcohol is a mind-altering drug and there are health risks associated with drinking.”
It’s not hard to believe that alcohol is treated like the fifth main food group in Canada. Birthdays, BBQs, weddings, funerals: alcohol use is so socially accepted that the report found that 80% of Canadians drink, and of that 80%, there’s a lot of drinking to excess.
Is Canadian society to blame for this excess drinking? It’s easy to find support for the yes argument. Sports teams are sponsored by big Canadian beer companies, so much so that the sport and the drinking go hand in hand. Beer gardens also go hand in hand with family fun fairs, even in small towns, with the kids going on rides while the parents sit in the beer garden.
Even Canadian icons can promote alcohol: one of the main characters of the Trailer Park Boys goes through life with a rum and coke in his hand, and who hasn’t heard of Bob and Doug McKenzie? They created the ultimate Canadian Christmas Carol and invited everyone to make sure there was a beer under the tree at Christmas.
If Canadian society isn’t responsible, then the reason behind the drunk driving problem lies somewhere else. Where that might be no one say exactly, but it might be a good thing to find out.