Contradictory statements issued by the Ontario Provincial Police have ice fishers at Petrie Island confused about whether they can bring booze to ice huts.
“You can’t have one law in one place and one law in another. It’s one straight across or not at all,” said Orleans resident Michael Blow.
Last Thursday, Eastern Region OPP issued a statement saying it’s illegal to drink alcohol inside or outside a hut.
This was just two weeks after Sault Ste. Marie OPP said in a press release it’s OK to drink inside the huts — just not outside.
The Sun called OPP’s corporate communications department to find out who’s right.
While the force stopped short of saying they goofed, they did concede mixed messages were out there.
“We were aware that there was some contradictory information,” said Insp. Dave Ross.
Turns out both statements were clear as dishwater.
“Under the Liquor License Act, if you’re consuming liquor in an ice hut you could be charged,” Ross said, adding you’re exempt if you’re in a hut with legitimate cooking and sleeping facilities.
“The officer has to make a judgment call,” said Ross.
He said the majority of huts don’t have stoves or beds and people can rent ice bungalows with bunkbeds.
That has some ice fishers puzzled.
“It’s no real difference between drinking here or at a bar, as long as you keep it under the limit and you don’t get too out of control,” said Jack Racine.
Claude Chretien has owned a hut since 1999 and said the crackdown isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I just think that they’re trying to warn people about drinking and driving and the effects of being intoxicated ‘cause a lot of people drive Ski Doos,” said Chretien.
“So maybe they’re trying to warn people that it’s not OK to drink and drive and it’s OK if you do it in your hut, but once you step in your car, it’s their (police) business.”
Now, it’s their business all the time.
“The OPP stance is an ice hut is not a private place,” Sgt. Kristine Rae said, adding most people get to and from ice huts in a motor vehicle or snowmobile and safety is a concern.
“Thirty per cent of snowmobile fatalities are alcohol-related,” said Ross.
So if you’re caught drinking, you could be charged and have your booze seized.
And ice fishers can call off that road trip to the Sault because Ross said, “the same law applies across the province.”