Canada’s legal drinking age is defined as the minimum age a person is allowed to buy and consume alcohol. Regulations on minimum drinking age vary according to province, which legislates its laws on alcohol consumption.

For example, it is 18 in Alberta but 19 in Ontario.

Legal Drinking Age in Canada’s Provinces and Territories

  • Alberta – 18 years old
  • British Columbia – 19
  • Manitoba – 18
  • New Brunswick – 19
  • Newfoundland and Labrador – 19
  • Northwest Territories – 19
  • Nova Scotia – 19
  • Nunavut – 19
  • Ontario – 19
  • Prince Edward Island – 19
  • Québec – 18
  • Saskatchewan – 19
  • Yukon Territory – 19

In comparison, France has a legal drinking age of 18, so is Mexico and Greece.

The Canadian government acknowledges the significance of alcohol abuse and overconsumption as cause of accidents (40% of car crashes is caused by alcohol) as studies have shown that teens have lower tolerance — and therefore have a higher risk of accidents or injuries — than adults. ​​

After tobacco,​​​ alcohol is the substance that causes the most harm in Canada. ​The over-consumption of alcohol can cause chronic health conditions (such as some cancers and cirrhosis of the liver), diseases, and other medical conditions that have an impact on the country’s healthcare system.

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction, alcohol-related harm across Canada is around $14.6 billion per year.

  • ​​​$7.1 billion for lost productivity owing to illness and premature death
  • $3.3 billion for direct health care costs
  • ​$3.1 billion for enforcement costs​​

Females have likewise lower tolerance to alcohol than men. This is because alcohol dissolves in water and women have less water in their bodies than men. The weight of the individual also plays a role in their tolerance level; the smaller the person is, the quicker their body will absorb the alcohol.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police sets a gentle reminder on the possible consequences of driving under the influence.

If you drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could end up:

  • Injuring or killing yourself or someone else
  • Losing your driver’s license
  • Paying a fine
  • Possible jail time

If you drink or possess alcohol if you are below the legal drinking age (see age restriction list above):

  • Your alcohol being taken away
  • Paying a fine
  • Police notifying your parents/guardians of the situation

If you use a fake ID to buy alcohol or get into a bar:

  • Your ID being taken away from you
  • Paying a fine
  • Being banned from that store/bar
  • Getting the person who made/gave you the ID in trouble (ex: they can be fined)

If you buy alcohol for or serve alcohol to someone who is under the legal drinking age

  • Paying a fine
  • Possible jail time
  • Police holding the individual (who provided the alcohol) responsible for any resulting issues (such as a car accident or alcohol poisoning)

What does a “drink” constitute? When we are invited to go for a drink to a local bar, it’s quite uncertain how much volume of alcohol we are going to consume. But for reference, here are sample serving sizes of popular drinks:

  • Beer: 341 ml (12 oz.), 5% alcohol content
  • Cider/ Cooler, 341 ml (12 oz.) 5% alcohol content
  • Wine 142 ml (5 oz.), 12% alcohol content
  • Distilled Alcohol (rye, gin, rum, etc.), 43 ml (1.5 oz.) 40% alcohol content

Know your limits.

Reduce your risk of injury and harm by drinking no more than 3 drinks (for women) or 4 drinks (for men) on any single occasion. Plan to drink in a safe environment. Stay within the weekly limits outlined below.

• 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days
• 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days

Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.

Do not drink when you are:

  • Driving a vehicle or using machinery and tools
  • Taking medicine or other drugs that interact
    with alcohol
  • Doing any kind of dangerous physical activity
  • Living with mental or physical health problems
  • Living with alcohol dependence
  • Pregnant or planning to be pregnant
  • Responsible for the safety of others
  • Making important decisions

Set limits for yourself and stick to them

  • Drink slowly. Have no more than 2 drinks in any 3 hours.
  • For every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink.
  • Eat before and while you are drinking
  • Always consider your age, body weight and health problems that might suggest lower limits.
  • While drinking may provide health benefits for certain groups of people, do not start to drink or increase your drinking for health benefits.

To deter alcohol abuse and over-consumption, the Canadian government has set controls on pricing levels of liquor as a proven, effective way of controlling the availability and consumption of alcohol and supporting a culture of moderation. As a general rule, higher prices translate into lower consumption and reduced alcohol-related harm, while lower prices lead to increases in consumption and related harm.

But a more effective way of reducing alcohol abuse and addiction is personal vigilance. If you know someone is dealing with alcohol addiction (regular consumption or binge drinking) or drug-related issues, talk to them about it. Call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, where they can provide anonymous phone counseling.