'Untouchable' youths a problem for liquor establishments 0
Liquor outlet representatives are riled that they are the ones held responsible when underage customers make a purchase armed with fake identification cards. (FILE PHOTO)
There's no penalty for minors caught trying to buy booze in B.C., though a hefty fine is handed to establishments caught selling to kids. A British Columbia pub and liquor group says that's unfair and is calling for a crackdown on under-aged drinkers.
Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C. executive director Ron Orr called under-aged youth a "tidal wave" of untouchables, with sleeves full of tricks and fake IDs to buy booze - yet the onus is on business owners to keep them out or face a $7,500 fine.
"There's no real penalty put back to the people who are ultimately the ones committing the offence," he said. "It strikes me that we've got this backwards. The analogy would be like charging a bank for letting somebody rob them."
The organization represents about 250 private liquor stores in B.C. and more than 600 pubs and other liquor-primary establishments. Orr echoed previous criticism of B.C.'s strict fines, saying the majority of sales to minors are honest mistakes in "real life situations."
According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which oversees B.C.'s liquor distribution and sales, there are penalties for minors possessing alcohol, presenting false ID and for being inside an age-restricted establishment - just not for the act of buying booze itself.
The penalty for each offence is $230 after fines were doubled in 2010.
"The new fine levels matched or exceeded fine amounts in other provinces and allowed B.C. to take a national leadership role regarding appropriate fine levels," a ministry spokesman said in an email.
But Orr argues those fines are still "so minor" they don't act as a deterrent in an age where youth can order fake ID online, noting border guards in Calgary recently seized up to 100 fake "older version" B.C. drivers' licences being shipped from China to Albertan youth who want to buy alcohol.
In 2011, authorities fined twice as many people under the Liquor Control Act for presenting false ID compared to the previous year.
"They insisted the bars check for two pieces of ID. All that did was double the demand for fake IDs," Orr theorized. "When there are more people getting fake ID, then you would expect more people to be caught."
In B.C., border officials intercepted 80 imported pieces of fake ID in the first six months of 2012, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.
Information on whether those IDs were being shipped to minors wasn't available by press time, but federal RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound isn't surprised counterfeit card makers are targeting the "older version" of B.C. drivers' licences.
"The majority of what our investigators are seeing are the older ones, they don't have some of the security features being placed in the new IDs," he said.
Pound said those licences, still common in B.C., wouldn't look out of place to locals, estimating about 20% of drivers are using them.
"Potentially, that template is more readily accessible overseas on the Pacific Rim."
According to ICBC, the new light-background B.C. licences include facial recognition technology and numerous counterfeit prevention devices.