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

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

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Interdiction List History

Interdiction first presented itself in Canadian law in the Canada Temperance Act of 1864, though its origins can be traced back to the much earlier black list of English common law (Lang and McNeely 1963: 2) — that is, with laws tied to the British Ale-House and Inebriates acts of the mid-nineteenth century (laws that sought to eliminate drunkenness by circulating the names and likenesses of listed individuals). Historically, under this British law and subsequent acts, according to a 1904 explanation by H.M. Adler:

“A person found drunk and incapable in a highway or other public place, or in any licenced premises, or found drunk and having in his charge a child under the age of seven years, may be apprehended and punished. Husband or wife can obtain a judicial separation for habitual drunkenness in the other. A drunken wife may also, if she consents to such a course, be confined to an inebriate retreat. Licence-holders may not for three years serve any person convicted of habitual drunkenness, and both they and the police have to keep a list of such persons” (Adler 1904: 515).

Later legislation, known as the Liquor Licence Act, was adopted in England and Ireland in 1883 and contained the basic practices of interdiction that came to be played out in post-prohibition Ontario. The 1883 act stated:

“When it shall be made to appear in open court that any person, by excessive drinking of liquor, misspends, wastes or lessens his estate or greatly injures his or her health, or endangers or interrupts the peace and happiness of his or her family, the justices holding such court shall, by writing under the hands of two such justices, forbid any licenced person to sell him or her any liquor for the space of one year” (Liquor Licence Act 1883, c.30, s.92(1)).

In addition, the act, in section 93, also allowed specified individuals the ability to seek out the interdiction of another without that person having been convicted of an offence, noting:

(a) Any husband or wife, whose wife or husband has contracted the habit of drinking intoxicating liquor to excess — (b) the father, mother, curator, tutor or employer of any person under the age of twenty-one years, who has contracted the habit of drinking intoxicating liquor to excess — (c) the manager or person in charge of any asylum or hospital, or charitable institution, in which any person addicted resides or is kept — (d) the curator or committee of any interdicted person or lunatic, or — (e) the father, mother, brother or sister, of the husband or wife of such person — May require the Chief Inspector to give notice in writing, signed by him, to any person licenced to sell liquors, that he is not to sell or deliver the same to the person addicted to such habit or to such interdicted person.”

Under the act obligations and penalties were directed at the owner or employee of licenced establishments, as control over liquor use has historically been tied to the granting of licences and the necessity of licence holders to adhere to regulations instituted by granting bodies (Room 2004: 3).

In Canada the concept of specified, or targeted, prohibition has a long tradition with regards to controlling liquor access to First Nations peoples (see LCBO and First Nations Peoples). Several authors have cited this colonial link to the Interdiction List in Canada, leading historian Craig Heron (2003: 135) to suggest, “In many ways these constraints on Aboriginal drinking became models of public policy to which legislators would turn in clamping down on white drinking” — a position also found in the work of Mariana Valverde (2004: 584) and others. Most likely this historical connection led to the popular use of the racialized term “Indian List” as a common way of referring to Ontario’s Interdiction List.

The basic concepts of interdiction found their way into legislation in the 1864 Canada Temperance Act. Under the act (c.18, s.42) a family member could submit a written request to a liquor vendor to discontinue the sale of alcohol to another family member who had the habit of “drinking to excess.” If the request was ignored, the applicant could seek damages. By 1890 the concept of family members initiating the blacklisting of individuals in Ontario was expanded to include those under the age of twenty-one. Under the Liquor Licence Law of 1890 (c.56, s.8(2), if:

“any person who allows to be supplied in his licenced premises, by sale or otherwise, any description what[so]ever of liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years (hereafter called the minor) in respect of whom a notice in writing has been given to any such licenced person, signed by the father, mother, guardian or master of such minor, correctly stating the age of such minor, and forbidding such licenced person to sell or supply such minor with liquor… be liable to pay a penalty of not less than $10 and not exceeding $20.”

As these acts show, the focus was on family relations, and during this period many women used listing as a means of exercising economic control over their husbands’ drinking (and in 1864, if won, damages would be for the sole benefit of the women seeking them), or as a means of protecting themselves from spousal abuse (Heron 2003: 409). This family focus eventually expanded the net of culpability to include friends. For example, the Royal Commission on the Liquor Traffic of 1896 reported that, in Ontario, “Habitual drunkards may be interdicted as in Quebec, or may be committed to places licenced by the Government for their interdiction, the expense being borne by their friends” (cited in Spence 1896: 100). Before long the number of individuals on the Interdiction List had grown quite large compared to the post-prohibition years. In 1908 in London, Ontario, a town of some 47,659 people, for example, the list contained seventy names (Heron 2003: 408; Census of Canada 1911).

Alcohol blacklisting of individuals in Ontario after 1927 was formally conducted through the actions of the LCBO and legislated by the Liquor Control Act of 1927 (s. 95(1), (2)). In words similar to the 1883 British act, the Liquor Control Act, section 95(1), stated:

“Where it is made to appear to the satisfaction of a judge of the county or district court that any person, resident or sojourning within the Province, by excessive drinking of liquor, misspends, wastes, or lessens his estate, or injures his health, or interrupts the peace and happiness of his family, the judge may make an order of interdiction directing the cancellation of any permit held by that person, and prohibiting the sale of liquor to him until further ordered; and the judge shall cause the order to be forthwith filed with the Board.”

The act altered a person’s status with regard to purchasing or possessing intoxicating liquor, explaining:

“Every interdicted person keeping or having in his possession or under his control any liquor shall be guilty of an offence against this act, and, on summary conviction thereof, the justice making the conviction may in and by the conviction declare the liquor and all packages in which the same is contained to be forfeited to his majesty in the right of the province.”

Additionally, section 95(1) of the Liquor Control Act indicated a greater punishment for breaching an interdiction order — making the violation for the seller and drinker “a more serious charge than public drunkenness” (Valverde 2004: 580). Individuals who were legally interdicted were sent an Order of Interdiction through registered mail, and their names and addresses were made known to local liquor vendors and authority holders as well as local policing organizations.

LCBO Judges Order

Although it considered interdiction to be an effective means of curtailing liquor use, given the magnitude of the task at hand the LCBO saw the method as being too cumbersome a tool for widescale social control. The justice system was simply not fast or subservient enough to process the LCBO’s 1927–33 average of over 3,300 investigations per year (LCBO Annual Reports 1927–33).

Placing someone on the Interdicted List was a lengthy process; the person needed to be sentenced by a judge in open court, and few judges opted to include interdiction in sentences (LCBO Interdiction List).1 Between 1927 and 1976 only twenty-three judges actually chose to interdict offenders, and of those judges only six did so more than once in their careers. To bypass this time-consuming process, the Ontario government designed legislation to give the Board the authority to restrict access “for any cause which it deems sufficient with or without any hearing” (Liquor Control Act 1927, c.70, s. 43(1)).


<< The Interdiction Process
Unequal Application of Interdiction (1953-1975)
Social Sorting and the LCBO

Interdiction List History
The LCBO’s Cancellation List 1927–36

The Prohibited List 1929–65
Preventative Cancellations 1930–75
The Interdiction List (LCBO Action) 1965–75
The Identification of Listed Individuals 1927–75
Assessment and Analysis of Listed Individuals >>