Prohibition in Canada

Prohibition in Canada

Prohibition in Canada refers to a movement and a succession of actions at the local, county and provincial levels for the prohibition of alcohol, beginning in the late 19th century and continuing well into the 20th century. The temperance movement reached its height in Canada in the 1920s, when outside imports were cut off by provincial plebiscites. As legislation prohibiting consumption of alcohol was repealed, it was typically replaced with regulation restricting the sale of alcohol to minors and imposing excise taxes on alcoholic products.


Prohibition was mostly spurred on by the efforts of people of the Temperance movement to close all drinking establishments, which were viewed as places of drunkenness and misery. The main temperance organizations at the time were the "Dominion Alliance for the Total Suppression of the Liquor Traffic" and the Women's Christian Temperance Union, which rose to prominence in the 1870s in Canada and the United States.

Some legislative steps toward Prohibition were taken in the 19th Century. The passage of the Dunkin Act in the United Province of Canada in 1864 allowed any county to forbid the sale of liquor by majority vote.

An official, but non-binding, federal referendum was held in 1898 on prohibition, receiving 51.3% for and 48.7% against prohibition on a voter turnout of 44%. Prohibition had a majority in all provinces except Quebec, where a strong 81.10% voted against it. Despite this national electoral majority, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's government chose not to introduce a federal bill on prohibition in Parliament, mindful of the strong antipathy in the province of Quebec.

As a result, Canadian prohibition was instead enacted through laws passed by the provinces during the first twenty years of the 20th century. Prince Edward Island was the first to bring in prohibition in 1900. Alberta and Ontario passed prohibition laws in 1916. Quebec implemented prohibition in 1919, but it was quickly repealed after intense public pressure.


The provinces then repealed their prohibition laws, mostly during the 1920s. After the 1924 Ontario prohibition referendum narrowly defeated the repeal of the "Ontario Prohibition Act" the Ontario government of Howard Ferguson permitted the sale of low alcohol beer and, following its re-election, repealed prohibition in 1927 and created the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, permitting the sale of liquor in the province though under heavy regulation. Alberta repealed in 1924, along with Saskatchewan, upon realizing that the laws were unenforceable. Prince Edward Island was last to repeal in 1948. Nevertheless, some communities, such as the city of Owen Sound, Ontario, continued to outlaw liquor well into the 1970s.

Realizing that they could not stop people from drinking entirely, temperance advocates successfully pressured all provincial and territorial governments to curtail the sale of liquor through the tight control of liquor control boards.

ee Also

* Whiskey Gap, Alberta
* Govenlock, Saskatchewan



[sk:Prohibícia v Kanade

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