A timeline of prohibition and liquor legislation in Canada
CBC News Online
| June 30, 2005
Canada is in economic depression, but alcohol is a flourishing industry.
Toronto has approximately one bar for every 150 residents and Montreal
boasts a bar per 70 citizens. They sell Caribbean rum and locally
brewed whisky for high profits. Drink becomes responsible for acts
of disorderly conduct, and city jailhouses fill with people charges
with intemperance, the act of excessive drinking.
of alcohol becomes the focus of prohibition campaigns by women's
groups like the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and the United
Farm Women of Alberta.
A group of
churchwomen from Picton, Ont., ask their city council to stop selling
tavern licences and ask citizens to abstain from alcohol. Their
requests are denied as the profits from liquor sales are too high
they take their fight to Ottawa. They get no support from Opposition
leader John A. Macdonald, a devout drinker. They potentially find
help from Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie, but their cause does
not advance as women cannot vote and politicians have little to
gain from supporting the cause.
PEI is the first Canadian province to achieve prohibition. The remaining
provinces are by the end of the First World War.
April 30, 1904:
A Toronto West End neighbourhood goes dry to end drunken rowdiness.
Residents of West Toronto, now called the Junction, ban alcohol
to stop fights between men working in the railway stockyards. A
series of failed referendums leaves the Junction dry until 1997.
Prohibition is widespread in Canada. Details vary between provinces,
but most drinking establishments are closed and the sale of alcohol
is forbidden with some private exceptions. Aboriginal wines are
also exempt. Alcohol can still be sold through the government for
industrial, scientific, mechanical, artistic and medical uses. Distillers
can sell their products outside their own province with proper documentation.
The sale of
alcohol flourishes nationwide under several different guises. Illegal
drinking establishments, known as speakeasies, spring up everywhere.
In some provinces, people who claim to be ill can buy alcohol with
a doctor's prescription. The prescription system is widely abused,
a point noticed most during the Christmas holiday season with long
lineups at neighbourhood drugstores.
In 1920, British
Columbia votes to make alcohol available through the government.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan follow a year later. The remaining provinces
vote against prohibition by 1930, with the exception of P.E.I.,
which stays dry until 1948.
States remains under strict prohibition until 1933. The ban is intended
to reduce crime, solve social problems and improve the health of
American citizens. Instead, alcohol becomes more popular, creating
an underground economy of booze smugglers and rumrunners. The U.S.
hires 5,000 officers to enforce prohibition laws across the country,
which is an impossible task. Some argue that prohibition has made
alcohol easier to buy. The U.S. Coast Guard spends its time policing
the Canada-U.S. border and routinely sinks boats carrying booze
Prohibition ends in the United States.
Dec. 7, 1997:
Ontario liquor stores open for the first time on a Sunday. The new
hours are a final change to Ontario Sunday laws regarding alcohol.
The government started the process in 1967, allowing a limited number
of drinks to be served with meals on Sundays. These drinks could
only be served between noon and 3 p.m., and 5 and 9:30 p.m. In order
to open their retail doors on a Sunday, the Liquor Control Board
of Ontario has to convince the government of a reasonable demand
A restaurateur in Osprey Township Ontario is charged for selling
liquor in his unlicensed restaurant. Chef Michael Stadtlander and
his wife sell meals at their Collingwood restaurant and invite patrons
to bring their own wine. They are charged for selling two bottles
of wine from their private stock at a $1.20 markup to a couple who
fail to bring their own. The pair say they are celebrating a wedding
anniversary, but in fact are a team of undercover police officers.
The charges are later dropped, and the case suggests that Ontario
should consider allowing diners to bring their own wine to restaurants.
British Columbia loosens a series of Byzantine liquor laws. Among
them, licensed restaurants can now serve drinks without meals, or
with an appetizer-sized food order. Restrictions are also lifted
on the amount of television sets in an environment, and their screen
size. In retail outlets, shoppers can now also pay for alcohol by
A series of public hearings are held in Iqaluit in an effort to
rethink Nunavut's strict alcohol limitations. Some Nunavut communities
are dry, and in others alcohol must be mail ordered in. Air freight
costs push the price of drinking much higher than the Canadian average.
Some argue that part of the problems stemming from alcohol are based
on its tight restrictions. Despite current bans bootleggers runs
thriving businesses in the north. Many are a phone call away and
can deliver with in minutes.
Natuashish is a new community of 700 Innu people from Davis Inlet,
Labrador. The new community is created to escape the substance and
alcohol abuse that plague surrounding communities. Natuashish is
designated as a reserve under the Indian Act, and is not yet declared
a dry town. The band council has the authority to pass liquor laws.
Two years later,
old problems take hold of the new town. In 2003, one former band
councillor says about 10 per cent of the population participate
in bootlegging. By 2004, the small community blames four suicides
on alcohol consumption.
British Columbia extends bar hours to 4 a.m. from 2 a.m. Restaurant
patrons are also allowed to take home unfinished bottles of wine.
Manitoba bans all-you-can-drink promotions after a Winnipeg student
dies from binge drinking. This includes any kind of contest where
alcohol consumption is part of the game. Bar employees are also
forbidden from roaming through a restaurant or bar with unordered
pre-made drinks on a tray.
Dec. 22, 2004:
Hamlet councillors in the Northwest Territories community of Paulatuk
want a dry Christmas. They ask Aklak Air, the airline responsible
for bringing in holiday visitors, to limit the amount of spirits
brought into the small town. Ray Ruben, Paulatuk's mayor, does not
apply early enough for a prohibition order, so a ban cannot be legally
imposed. He says he wants to informally curb consumption, so more
citizens can participate in community activities.
Ontario introduces the Bring Your Own Wine program. It allows diners
to bring their own unopened wine to dinner at participating restaurants.
Patrons will be charged a corkage fee determined by the establishment.
Feb. 25, 2005:
Ottawa considers warning labels on alcohol. Ontario Liberal MP Paul
Szabo appears before a parliamentary committee one day before trying
to get it to back his private member's bill, Bill C-206, a cause
he has been working on for 10 years. The labels would be similar
to ones found on cigarette packages, and warn about the possible
effects of alcohol, such as impaired ability to drive, and health
issues, including possible birth defects. The beverage industry
opposes the plan, claiming it would cost up to $20 million a year
to implement. Twenty countries have similar labels, including the
June 29, 2005:
Three rural communities in Nova Scotia vote to have alcohol for
the first time since prohibition. Until now, residents of Cambridge
and Maitland drove to other towns for their liquor supply. People
from Tidnish crossed the border into New Brunswick for a drink.