Punched Drunk: Alcohol, Surveillance and the LCBO, 1927-1975

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


LCBO and First Nations Peoples

Like any other group, Canada’s First Peoples have generated a broad range of responses to alcohol: from complete abstinence to controlled social uses and problem drinking. As Peter Mancall (1995: 6) points out, “Many researchers have demonstrated that there is no single response of Indians to alcohol.” Biological research has shown that “no genetic trait leads Aboriginal peoples to drink excessively” and that these populations “metabolize alcohol at the same rate as non-natives” (Campbell 2008: 106). Although cases of First Nations alcohol abuse are widely publicized, less well known are instances such as those during the Second World War, when Indians were allowed to drink legally while overseas — and many officers reported seeing no visible distinction between “white” and “Indian” 1 drinking (see Special Joint Committee, 4: 1376–77, cited in Campbell 2008: 112). As researchers from the Addictions Research Foundation have succinctly put it, “The stereotype of the reserve Indian as an ‘alcoholic’ is not borne out by the facts” (Daily 1968: 25). Ontario studies show that while drinking on reserves may be higher than drinking rates in the general population, the phenomenon is linked to economic conditions, and the amelioration of those conditions has been shown to decrease alcohol consumption (Adrian, Layne, and Williams 1991).

Canadian Legal Classifications and First Nations
– In Canada the First Nations peoples have been subjected to a range of different laws and regulations not applied to other groups living within the country. For this reason the government required a means of differentiating those who held particular legal statuses under the law. This resulted in the legal classification of “Indian.” (Read More)

Interdiction and the “Indian List” – Under the law those found to be known drunkards were classified legally as “interdicted” and were barred from legally purchasing alcohol. While under the Indian Act and other legislation, “Indians” were also barred. In the application of these two sets of laws the lines which separated these two distinct legal categories became blurred, lumping together “known drunkards” together with the peoples of the First Nations. (Read More)

Prototypical Classification – This form of classification is based on the use of stereotypical or prototypical characteristics to place individuals or objects into groups. Not only does this form of classification impact how people identify others but it also develops how people think about and remember classified people. (Read More)

The LCBO and the Classification of Indians – Since the sale of alcohol to “Indians” was illegal due to regulations in the Indian Act and the Liquor Control Act the LCBO classified them as “Interdicted” placing them in the same category as known drunkards – an act which would lead to the association of “Indians” and drunkards and the adoption of the term “the Indian List” to refer to the drunk or “Interdiction” list. In addition to this, the LCBO was required to identify “Indians” to keep them from accessing alcohol. To do so they relied on “prototypical classification” as well as other technologies of identification like enfranchisement cards. (Read More)

First Nations and Alcohol 1939–75 – Changes in law after WWII allowed for “Indians” to legally purchase liquor in Canada. In Ontario the implementation of these legal changes were incremental and “Indians” were first only given the opportunity to purchase liquor in bars and only later were granted the ability to purchase liquor from LCBO stores. (Read More)

The Impact of Prototypical Classification – Importantly, the LCBO used “prototypical classification” (link) in order to identify and restrict access to “Indians” and in so doing acted to promote the development of stereotypical associations between “Indians” and alcohol misuse. (Read More)

The Impact of the Indian/Interdiction Classification – The joining of “Indians” and Interdiction (link) categories has had detrimental effects on how people think about the First Nations peoples and alcohol. Although the LCBO is not solely responsible for the development of the “drunken Indian stereotype” their linking of the Interdiction list and First Nations peoples defined as “Indians” as well as their application of federal and provincial laws of prohibition did act to further its development. (Read More)