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Could Canada’s Navy be going dry? Don’t bet any beer on it.

Following “recent incidents” involving sailor misconduct, the Royal Canadian Navy has launched a review of its policies and procedures. What is the main area they’re calling into question? No, it’s not on-board choreographed dance routines.  Boogieing down in onshore bars is also not something to worry about – well, maybe we should worry if Stephen Harper hits the dancefloor. The review will actually look into whether alcohol privileges are a primary cause of out-of-hand shenanigans, such as those that led to a recall of the HMCS Whitehorse this week.  These shenanigans included a “sexual incident,” delinquency involving a seaman who was arrested for shoplifting in San Diego, and a senior officer who spent the night in a drunk tank while AWOL.  We’ve definitely seen alcohol-related issues arise in Canada’s senate – which, until recently, served as Canada’s sober second thought – so it’s probably worth investigating whether alcohol is also contributing to the Navy’s issues.


Which one of these is the party boat we can only speculateWikimedia Commons

Which one of these is the party boat we can only speculate
Wikimedia Commons


First, we probably want to know where our seapeople (more inclusive and less punny than seamen) are getting their booze. Apparently, many of our Navy’s ships have vending machines on board with a wide selection of low-quality domestic beers. At duty-free pricing, the beers are also dirt cheap, so lots of drinking won’t cost a sailor too much. Higher-level officers may also have access to an open bar under strict regulations, and cocktail parties are not uncommon when entertaining. It seems like there is plenty of access to alcohol on and off the boat, but maybe it’s not such a big deal. I mean, how much of the ruckus caused by seapeople can possibly be related to alcohol?

As it turns out, a lot. 95% of navy discipline problems are reported to have stemmed from alcohol abuse.


We couldn't see this happening without the use of alcoholCasablanca Records

How could this happen without the use of alcohol?
Casablanca Records


Yarrr, the old question remains: what shall we do with a drunken sailor? The old sea shanty might respond, “throw him in the lock-up ‘til he’s sober,” but a modern response might be, “take them to work with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health or the Canadian Navy equivalent.” Hopefully, those sailors facing addiction can find the support they need within Navy networks.

So, we may now understand the gravity of this issue, but who is responsible enough to make the necessary changes to navy policy? Our politicians, perhaps? I can’t help but think it just wouldn’t be fair for our government to demand navy prohibition when sailors see Rob clutching the pipeJustin smoking a spliff, and underagers chugging down brews at Stephen’s residence on 24 Sussex. Maybe, instead of seeing the navy alcohol problem as an isolated issue and then blaming it on access to alcohol and a few unruly sailors, we need to examine the systemic addiction problem across our country. Canada needs to work to build a better system for handling mental health and addiction, which are both challenges faced by a massive amount of Canadians on land and at sea.