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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.