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The Police and Laws:
RCMP Musical Ride Rider from the RCMP Website listed below.
Police in Vancouver and in BC in general fall into 2 categories. Local City Police and the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). There is little difference in the way you will be treated by either, and you can expect any Police Officer in Canada to be generally friendly and courteous. Back in the late 60's, the Vancouver Police had a bad reputation for getting out of hand, bashing hippies on the head and such, and the RCMP got a bit of a black eye for getting a little too enthusiastic with the pepper spray in protester control during the 1997 APEC conference. As usual , though, there are usually two sides to most of those stories, so who knows. The Prime minister is taking the heat for that one, though.
There have been a couple of very disturbing incidents recently involving Vancouver Police. excessive force seems to have been used in late 2002 at a "Guns'n'Roses" concert and 6 officers are under investigation after a police brutality incident in January 2004. the new Police Chief has promised to get to the bottom of these incidents.
On the whole, however, you can expect the police around here to be pretty helpful. If you are a visitor from a country where Police are generally better avoided, you can rest assured that Canadian Police are there to protect and assist you, not make your life miserable. Don't expect to see Mounties in Red uniforms, they only wear them on special occasions. Police attitudes to backpackers is much the same as anywhere else. They will generally leave you alone, unless you are trying to sleep on the street or in a park. There has been a bit of problem in Victoria, with merchants complaining about backpackers on the street. (spoils the appearance for the richer travellers).
|Welcome to the RCMP||Website of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police|
|West Vancouver Police,Department||Well done, entertaining Website (NW Suburb)|
|Vancouver Police Department||Website of the Vancouver City Police|
|The Delta Police Department Headquarters||Website of the Delta Police (SW Suburb)|
|New Westminster Police Service Web Site||New Westminister Police|
|North Vancouver RCMP Page||North Van Police|
|Justice Institute of British Columbia||Training Facility|
Vancouver, West Vancouver, New Westminister, Port Moody, Delta and few other areas have their own Police Forces, but most of the suburbs are policed by the RCMP. Most Police cruisers in Vancouver City itself are dark Blue in colour, but RCMP cruisers are White. Both forces use large American cars and some motorcycles. Both police forces use radar guns, including Laser, quite liberally, so watch your speed when driving. Speed limits in Canada are in Kilometres per hour. This can be confusing to Americans. 100 KPH is roughly 60 MPH, 80 KPH is about 50 MPH and 50 KPH is about 30 MPH. This covers most speed zones in Canada.
Photo Radar was scrapped in BC in June 2001. Intersection cameras to catch light runners are prevalent, though.
The max. speed limit anywhere in BC is 110 KPH and this is on Highway 5 (the Coquihalla, a toll highway) in stretches from Vancouver to Kamloops, and 97A from Merritt to Peachland. Most freeways are 100 KPH, City streets are 50 KPH unless otherwise marked. Fines for speeding are quite high (minimum $100 and increasing rapidly with speed). There is also a crackdown on people running red lights, which is becoming endemic in Vancouver. It is, however, legal to turn right on a red light unless otherwise marked. The procedure for turning left, is to sit in the intersection and then turn left on the Amber just before the light goes Red. You have to watch out for the aforementioned red light runners, though. Also be careful of one way streets in Vancouver. There are lots of them.
Another feature about driving in Canada is the "4-Way stop". We do not have roundabouts as in Europe, but lots of 4-way stops. These consist of a Stop sign on all four corners of an intersection. Traffic alternates, and if you arrive at the same time, the person on your right has right of way.
Driving and drinking is of course illegal, and the limit is 0.08 % blood alcohol level. Seat Belt use is compulsory in BC and fines for non-compliance are heavy.
It is quite easy to get a parking ticket. Meter maids are quite vigilant. Watch the main routes in rush hour times. They will tow you away off these.
For those of you visiting from what we call 3rd world countries, please note that police officers in Canada do not accept bribes (at least I haven't found one who will yet) and any attempt to offer one will result in immediate arrest. The police in Canada seem generally friendlier than their American counterparts, and considering the increased danger to police officers south of the border, this is understandable. Police Officers in Canada are armed, but seldom draw their guns. They have to fill out a lengthy report, every time they do, so they tend not to.
If you are in an accident in Canada, please note that liability settlements are considerably lower than in the United States. 2 Million in liability insurance is more than enough. If you are in an accident, you will have to deal with the government owned, Insurance Corporation of BC. The other driver may have collision coverage from another supplier, but all liability claims have to be done with ICBC.
Legal drinking age in BC is 19 years old. Drinking in Public is illegal. If you take a case of beer to the beach, it will likely be confiscated. If you are discreet, you can probably sip on a can or two with no problem. All liquor except wine and beer has to be purchased in a government liquor store. You can buy wine and beer in licensed private outlets, but not in supermarkets. Every summer I see Americans in Safeway trying to find the liquor aisle, to no avail.
It is possible to get a fine for jaywalking in Vancouver. This happened to me once several years ago, but its not heavily enforced. Jaywalking is crossing a busy street without using a crosswalk or doing it at an intersection.
It is illegal to hitchhike on freeways. Its okay on the on-ramps.
Drugs are illegal. Possession of Pot is generally considered a misdemeanour unless its a large amount. Vancouver has a big heroin problem and the port is one of the major entry points for drugs in North America. Pot grown in BC is considered to be the finest available anywhere, and BC is the major supplier of this drug to the United States. This has prompted a heavy crackdown at the US Border. People have had their vehicles confiscated or have been banned from entering the United States for life upon the discovery of as much as a single seed in their vehicle. Needless to say, you could be completely innocent if you have a rental car or even a second hand vehicle, where the previous owner or user has smoked a joint, but Customs does not take this into account. Be careful.
As I've mentioned elsewhere in my web site, handguns are illegal in Canada. It is easy for Americans, especially, to feel like they are still in the United States when they are visiting Canada, since our culture is so similar and we sound the same. The laws regarding firearms are, however, very different here, and you will be in big trouble if you are caught with one. Leave it at home or store it in Blaine, Washington before crossing the border (there are facilities there). Sporting rifles are OK and so are handguns bought in for shooting competitions (provided you have obtained the necessary permits). In this case, the weapons must be declared on entry into the country.
It is illegal for minors to buy cigarettes, so if some kid asks you to buy some for them, don't.
Car theft in Vancouver is high, so lock your car and avoid underground lots. The Park & Ride at Scott Road Skytrain station has bike patrols as do some of the larger shopping centres. The Police are quite co-operative if this happens to you.