Shipping Canadian Wine Across Borders, Bill C-311 and Free My Grapes

This guest post is from Shirley-Ann George, the founder and president of the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers and its Free My Grapes campaign. This is a critical issue for all of us who love Canadian wine.

By Shirley-Ann George

Many Canadians shake their head when they hear that it is a criminal offense for us to carry or ship our own wine across a provincial border.

While few of us believe that transporting a legal product across a provincial border is “importing”, the provincial liquor boards are quick to inform any winery of this filling an order from an out-of-province customer.

Some of us are happy to ignore the law and smuggle wine across provincial borders. Unfortunately, we are still denied access to out-of-province wine clubs and the ability to order many of the great Canadian wines we hear about through wine reviews.

When FreeMyGrapes.ca started up the consumer voice in late 2010, it wasn’t hard to find wine lovers, sommeliers and wineries that were willing to help out.  The media weighed in and we were off to the races. We built on and partnered with the Canadian Vintners Association’s 5+ years of work on getting a personal exemption to the prohibition era federal law through the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act.

Canadians, by the hundreds, wrote, signed petitions and tweeted their Member of Parliament.

As your mother may have told you, good things come to those who work hard!

On June 6th, Bill C-311, the 51-word amendment to the federal law, passed the third reading in the House and is now off to the Senate with Senator Runciman tabling the bill on June 7th. While normally, good progress there would see the bill approved before Christmas, all the stops are being pulled out with some hope that the bill will pass in June.

Kudos go to MPs Dan Albas (C311 is his bill), Ron Cannan and Scott Brison along with Terry David Mulligan, Frank Haddad, Sharon Marks, Mark Hicken and the thousands of FreeMyGrapes supporters.

Before you do a little happy dance, I should tell you that there is a catch. Bill C-311 states that there is a personal exemption for wine “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.”

At this point, the provinces do not allow any alcohol to be ordered on line directly from out-of-province wineries and most allow only modest amounts of wine to ‘personally accompanied’ into the province. Millions of wine lovers in Canada need the provinces to make the necessary changes so we can bring home or order reasonable quantities of winery-to-consumer wine from any where in Canada.

So our work is not done and we still need your help.  A letter to your MPP / MLA will go a long way towards helping us to finally free your grapes.  You can find a sample letter and how to contact your MPP at http://www.freemygrapes.ca/take-action.shtml


Shirley-Ann George is the founder and president of the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers and its FreeMyGrapes campaign.  You can follow her tweets at @FreeMyGrapes or e-mail her at sageorge@rogers.com.

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