Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
The RCMP is reminding Manitobans that they face hefty fines for using weed or alcohol on the ice of lakes and waterways, an added incentive to remain sober if the risk of crashing through the ice and plunging into frigid water isn’t enough.
COVID-19 restrictions have sent many people in the province to the great outdoors, sometimes enhancing their enjoyment with a little alcohol and/or cannabis.
Police have noticed more people out walking, skiing, skating and ice fishing, notes a statement from the RCMP’s Selkirk detachment. But not all ice is equal and how sound it is depends on where it’s located.
There has been a marked increase in the popularity of ice fishing this year in southern Manitoba. “The lakes and waterways are covered with ice fishing shacks, both permanent and temporary,” as well as people and snowmobiles, reports the RCMP.
But the uptick in interest has brought with it a rise in illegal alcohol and cannabis consumption. “Those climbing numbers lead directly to more people driving to and from their fishing shacks while impaired,” the police say.
It is illegal to consume alcohol or cannabis while on the ice or inside either a temporary or permanent ice fishing shelter, the statement points out. The fine for having open alcohol on the ice is $672.
“With all sorts of vehicles out and about, no determined roadway, people skiing, walking and skating, and places where there is open water, the ice can be a challenge to drive on at the best of times,” cautions Staff Sgt. Kyle McFadyen of Manitoba RCMP Traffic Services. The challenge is made even more dangerous “when a driver is impaired,” McFadyen argues.
Beyond the fines for consuming, penalties for impaired driving are the same on the ice as they are on roadways. Suspension, loss of licence and even jail time could result, depending on the severity of the occurrence, the RCMP notes.
For those who do get together, they are reminded it is imperative that “people continue to practice social distancing and not gather in large groups.”
Similar concerns have surfaced in Ontario. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) makes clear in a tweet that while some recreational amenities are open, including ice fishing, people must social distance, fishing huts can only be used by members of the same household and overnight stays are not permitted.