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Bob was born in British Columbia (GMT-7) on March 7th at 11 p.m. local time. Alice was born the next day, March 8th, in Nova Scotia (GMT-3) at 1 a.m. local time, which is 2 hours before Bob was born, due to the time zone difference.

Bob and Alice are in Vancouver (GMT-7). It is Bob's 19th birthday. Bob is of legal drinking age according to Canadian law and the birthdate listed on his driver's license, Alice is not. They both have a glass of wine with dinner.

The legality of drinking is based on age, so could Alice be arrested for underage drinking based on the birth date listed in her driver's license even though she is technically "older" than Bob based on a geo-spatial frame of reference? Or would the law consider her to be of legal age based on the time zone of her birth, and the exact time of day she drew her first breath when compared to local time?

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  • Possible dupe? Age and timezones
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 16:32
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    – feetwet
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 19:49

2 Answers 2

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I am not aware of any judicial consideration of this issue.

The Liquor Control and Licensing Act, s. 78(1) says:

A minor must not, except as provided under this Act or unless the minor does so with other lawful excuse, ... consume liquor.

(One of those exceptions are when the alcohol is supplied by the minor's parents, spouse or guardian in a residence for consumption in the residence. There are other exceptions, too. But I'll assume you're asking about a circumstance where no exception applies.)

The Liquor Control and Licensing Act defines a "minor" to be a person under the age of majority established by the Age of Majority Act, which is age 19 today.

The Liquor Control and Licensing Act, s. 57 makes it an offence to contravene s. 78(1).

The Interpretation Act, s. 25.1 states that "A person reaches a particular age expressed in years at the beginning of the relevant anniversary of the person's birth date." The Interpretation Act also clarifies that the reference to time "is a reference to Pacific Standard Time" (or Pacific Daylight Saving Time, when it is in effect).

Thus, a person is a minor until "the beginning [in Pacific time] of the relevant anniversary of the person's birth date."

It is most clear in relation to the identification requirements when selling to a minor, but the Regulations (s. 158) refer to the date of birth as displayed on the person's identification card.

This all suggests that when consuming alcohol in the greater Vancouver area, a person just about to reach the age of majority must wait until the date in the Pacific time zone is that which is displayed on their identification. Or barring any identification, until the date in the Pacific time zone is the date that is the person's birth date.

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  • I have no idea what time in PST I was born. I have no idea if the time is recorded anywhere. Does that mean if I’m accused of underage drinking the police has to prove I was underage, and if I want a driving license I have to prove I’m old enough? (With me being born in a known time zone X between 00:00am and 23:59pm on a known date as evidence?)
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 17:30
  • @gnasher729 Your birth date is whatever is recorded on your identity documents. Or rather, the date of birth is based on the time zone of the birth location, but the effective age (in BC) is counted under Pacific time (PST and PDT).
    – xngtng
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 17:48
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    @gnasher729 I doubt your ID-card list the time of day of your birth, so it only looks at the date. So if you were born January 10th 2000 at 23:50, you'd still be able to legally drink from January 10th 2019 at 0:01 PST. Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 20:45
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I think the key point here is to understand that an "age" is not an attribute of an individual, but a status which an individual enjoys within a particular legal jurisdiction.

The "birth date" of an individual is the calendar date on which they were born (without any importance attributed to the time of birth on that date).

If there were uncertainty in a legal context due to timezones, I expect that the default approach would be to treat the local date at their place of birth, as the date of birth.

The "age" (in years) of an individual is typically reckoned as how many anniversaries have passed since their birth date. The typical legal treatment of a Feb-29 birthday is to treat the anniversary as passing on Mar-01, in those years where the operation of the calendar means no Feb-29 occurs.

A person's current age in a particular jurisdiction, would be reckoned by considering their nominal birth date (i.e. the date as it was at the time of their birth and in the place of their birth), and then considering how many anniversaries have passed by reference to the local time of the current jurisdiction.

The implication of this is that a person can have different ages in different legal jurisdictions around the world.

And for legal purposes in general, the time or exact ordering of birth is irrelevant. Two children born on the same date, even if at different times, are the same age. No further ordering of their ages is typically recognised.

In the case of the question, Bob is older than Alice because his date of birth is Mar-07, and Alice's date of birth is Mar-08. Alice was born on a later date than Bob, by reference to the local time of the jurisdiction in which they were born.

This is the case even if there is evidence that the timings of their births were such that a certain time of day in the place where Alice was born on Mar-08, fell earlier than the time of day in the place where Bob was born on Mar-07.

As for enjoying a drink on one's birthday, Alice could not yet have celebrated her birthday in the jurisdiction, and it must be obvious to her that her 19th birthday is the following day.

That is, unless the scenario is complicated further by Alice not only being born in a different jurisdiction (which establishes the foundation for claiming she is, by some reckoning, older than Bob), but also having travelled on the relevant day from a jurisdiction where she is treated already as 19, to a jurisdiction where the calendar date has not yet turned over and she is treated as only 18.

As a final aside, it's important to recognise that exact times of birth are often not known (especially as to whether it falls exactly before or after midnight, which is when the date changes), and historically in the Western world (and still in less developed parts of the world) even the date may be subject to some considerable uncertainty as births were not routinely registered. This is resolved typically by forcing a choice to be made then making that choice binding.

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