Supreme Court upholds law restricting cross-border provincial beer runs

Apr 19 2018, 4:06 pm

Buying beer (or any alcohol) in one province and bringing it to another remains illegal in Canada following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada today.

The decision was initiated by a 2012 case when Gerard Comeau — a retiree from New Brunswick — drove across the Quebec border to purchase large quantities of beer and liquor from various stores in the province.

In October 2012, Comeau was stopped at the New Brunswick border by RCMP officers. He was fined $292.50 for purchasing beer and liquor from three Quebec shops and his alcohol was seized by border authorities.

Comeau did not pay the fine and case went from New Brunswick provincial court to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Comeau’s defence argued that section 121 of the Constitution Act which says “all articles of the growth, produce, or manufacture of any one of the provinces shall, from and after the union, be admitted free into each of the other provinces.”

In interpreting the original texts of Canada’s constitution, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no “constitutional guarantee of free trade” and reasoned that while the constitution “prohibits the imposition of charges on goods crossing provincial boundaries — tariffs and tariff‑like measures… historical evidence nowhere suggests that provinces would lose their power to legislate.”

The ruling is a disappointment for supporters of the Free The Beer Campaign, a Conservative-led movement that seeks to remove interprovincial trade barriers that limit consumer choice and infringe on the rights of Canadian brewers to sell their products anywhere in Canada without government interference.

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