- Written by Mark Hicken Mark Hicken
- Category: Shipping, Border, Import, Export Laws Shipping, Border, Import, Export Laws
- Published: 09 August 2004 09 August 2004
- Last Updated: 22 January 2019 22 January 2019
This article provides a summary of the shipping laws regarding wine (and other liquor) within Canada. This article is updated frequently and was current as of September 2018. However, the laws in this area are changing rapidly so please contact me (or your own lawyer) in order to ensure that you have the latest information. If you are interested in wine shipping issues related to bringing wine from a foreign country to Canada, please see this article: Bringing Wine to Canada After a Trip.
The shipping of any alcohol from one province into another province was previously prohibited by a federal law (which stems from the prohibition era) called the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (Canada). However, on June 28, 2012 that law was amended by Bill C-311. While the general prohibition remains in place, the Bill created a national personal use exemption for wine subject to applicable provincial laws. In June 2014, the federal government also amended the law to extend the personal use exemption to include the interprovincial shipment of beer and spirits. That amendment was effective June 19, 2014. However, the various provinces have not embraced the spirit of these changes and have created various barriers to interprovincial "direct to consumer" shipments.
The Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Comeau was released in April 2018. Generally, the court upheld provincial legal restrictions on the inter-provincial purchase/import of alcohol as long as they are connected to a legitimate provincial objective other than restricting trade. This decision directly affects the issues discussed on this page. Legal advice may be required on the implications of this decision.
NOTE: many provincial liquor laws were updated as a result of the legalization of cannabis by the federal government in October 2018. The chart below is currently under review and may not reflect changes to provincial laws made at that time.
The following chart summarizes my views on the ability of consumers to receive "direct to consumer" interprovincial shipments of wine under the laws in the various provinces.
|DTC from Winery?||DTC from Retailer?||Quantity Limits||...||Comments|
|Yes||No||Amount for personal consumption if 100% Cdn wine from winery.
||OK for Canadian wine purchased from a winery. Imported wine has different rules: subject to 9 liter cumulative quantity limit and only for "in-person" importation (no shipment).
|Unclear||Unclear||Amount for personal consumption.
||Alberta law says that adults may "import" liquor from other provinces (and other countries) in amounts determined by regulation. It is my view that the only reasonable interpretation of the word "import" as used in these laws (see s.86 of the Gaming & Liquor Act and s.89 of the Gaming & Liquor Regulation) includes both in person transport and direct shipment. However, Alberta amended the regulation (s.89), to make importation from other provinces "subject to the policies of the Board" which appear to be set out in section 3.27 of this manual and which restrict importation to amounts that are personally transported (i.e. not shipped). It is not clear whether this "policy statement" has a valid basis in Alberta law since it may not be consistent with the language in the Act and Regulation. If it does have a valid basis, then the Comeau decision would likely validate the restrictions. However, the Comeau case dealt with provincial laws, not policies, so the situation is unclear.|
|Yes (from BC only)||No||9 liters.
||Saskatchewan is open for DTC shipments of wine and spirits from BC only (not other provinces). An authorization (for the customer) is required from the SLGA which is valid for one year. Maximum quantity per shipment is 9 litres (one case) but multiple shipments are allowed. The customer is required to submit markup to the SLGA upon receipt of the shipment. The markup for wine is $5.25 per 750 ml bottle. See details here: Direct Shipment to Saskatchewan.
|Yes||Yes||Amount for personal consumption.
||Section 71 of Manitoba's new law governing both alcohol and cannabis refers to the fact that it is permissible to possess and consume liquor that has been "lawfully imported" into Manitoba. This is not as clear as the previous law that specifically permitted the importation of alcohol from other parts of Canada. However, Manitoba's liquor web site appears to indicate that the policy has not changed and that DTC is still permissible.|
|Unclear||Unclear||Amount for personal consumption.
||Ontario's laws are silent on the issue of interprovincial importation of alcohol. However, the LCBO has issued a "policy statement" that disagrees with this and says that only "in person transport" is allowed. It is not clear whether this "policy statement" has a valid basis in Ontario law. If it does, then the Comeau decision would likely validate the restrictions. However, the Comeau case dealt with provincial laws, not policies, so the situation is unclear.
||Provincial law restricts transport of wine not purchased from liquor board within Quebec. Regulations have been issued which allow the importation of alcohol from other provinces but they only permit 9 liters of wine per person and only if it has been personally transported (no direct to consumer shipment).
||It is my view that the only reasonable interpretation of the word "import" in the amended legislation includes both in person transport and direct shipment. The PEI liquor board is stating that it is not open for shipment, only for "in-person transport". In my view, this is not a reasonable interpretation of PEI law.
|No||No||The recent decision in R. v. Comeau upheld New Brunswick's provincial laws that restrict its residents from purchasing and importing wine from outside the province.
|Yes||No||OK for Canadian wine purchased from a winery. Nova Scotia announced it is open for DTC wine shipments on June 25, 2015.
||Unreasonably low quantity limit. Use of word "bringing" may exclude shipment. Note that the NL liquor board charged FedEx with shipping BC wine from a winery to a customer in Newfoundland. The case did not proceed after the defence lawyer made an argument that NL laws could not reach a federally regulated courier such as FedEx.
Current Law on Shipping
The original prohibition was contained in section 3(1) which states:
Notwithstanding any other Act or law, no person shall import, send, take or transport, or cause to be imported, sent, taken or transported, into any province from or out of any place within or outside Canada any intoxicating liquor, except such as has been purchased by or on behalf of, and that is consigned to Her Majesty or the executive government of, the province into which it is being imported, sent, taken or transported, or any board, commission, officer or other governmental agency that, by the law of the province, is vested with the right of selling intoxicating liquor.
This section effectively makes it illegal to import alcohol from one province to another or into a province from another country unless the alcohol is going to, or is otherwise authorized by, the governmental agency responsible for selling liquor within that province (e.g. the provincial liquor control board - in BC, that's the BC LDB). In other words, the federal law basically bans all importation or transport of liquor/wine across provincial borders or national borders unless the importation is authorized by the receiving province's liquor board.
However, Bill C-311 added an exemption in section 3(2)(h) which exempts the following types of importations from the blanket prohibition:
(h) the importation of wine from a province by an individual, if the individual brings the wine or causes it to be brought into another province, in quantities and as permitted by the laws of the latter province, for his or her personal consumption, and not for resale or other commercial use.
[update: this exemption was further amended to include beer and spirits effective June 19, 2014]
As a result, it is no longer illegal to import wine, beer or spirits from one province to another province so long as the amount at issue are for personal consumption and so long as the destination province's laws allow for the shipment. So effectively, the federal government has "passed the buck" on this issue to the provinces. Fortunately, some provinces either had existing laws which permitted the interprovincial importation of wine or have adopted such laws. However, some provinces (like B.C.) are now trying to make distinctions between the interprovincial importation of Canadian wine shipped from wineries and the importation of other wines (e.g. U.S. wine purchased from a retailer in another province). Such distinctions create confusion for both consumers and wineries. On a practical level of course, there are no routine inspections at provincial borders so any "offside" transactions are rarely detected.
Differences of opinion now exist as to the effect of the various provincial and federal laws in question. The table above represents my view. Obviously, the end result of any remaining provincial restrictions is rather foolish in that wineries within Canada may not be able to legally ship their products to Canadians in a particular province depending upon that province's laws.
Please contact me for more info, questions, comments or a formal legal opinion. I have advised a number of BC wineries on these issues so I can likely provide answers to your questions quickly.