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

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


The LCBO’s Cancellation List 1927–36

In 1927, as a means of quickly and definitively dealing with problem users, the Board initiated what it called the “Cancellation List,” which contained the names of holders of cancelled liquor permits (LCBO Cancelled List in Circular no. 37, 1927; LCBO Annual Report 1927–28: 7). Specifically, the act allowed the Board “for any cause which it deems sufficient with or without any hearing [to] cancel or suspend any permit granted for the purchase of liquor” (Liquor Control Act 1927, c.70, s.43-1). Based on the concept and technology of the legal Interdiction List, those identified by the Board as “abusing their permit privilege,” or previously convicted of crimes under the Liquor Control Act, would be sent a registered letter mimicking the missive of the judicial interdiction process. The letter would explain the cancellation, inform recipients of the date from which it would take effect, and instruct them to “deliver [their permits] to the Justice or the nearest Vendor for furtherance to the Board in Toronto” (LCBO 1928: s.35, s.66; Liquor Control Act 1927, c.70, s.43). Vendors deciding to cancel permits, or who received cancelled permits due to Board action, were advised to mark “on the permit retained by the Board the word ‘cancelled’ and the date from which such cancellation is to take effect” (LCBO 1928: s.66). In addition to this, head office kept a list of holders’ names and made a record of their cancellation (LCBO Circular no. 1167, 1930). In cases “where the permit has been cancelled the Board [would] notify all vendors and such other persons as may be provided by the regulations made under this Act, of the cancellation of the permit” (Liquor Control Act 1927, c.70, s. 43(5)).

This Interdiction List (now including Board cancellations) was updated through letters that noted the name of each individual added to the list; complete lists were produced weekly by the Board (LCBO 1928: s.32, 33; LCBO Manual 1951: 23). In addition to cancellations that were the result of permit purchase surveillance or convictions under the Liquor Control Act, the LCBO also had a specialized staff that conducted its own investigations into the drinking of some of its permittees. The Board reported in its annual reports an annual average of over 3,300 investigations between the years of 1927 and 1933, and generated detailed files on these subjects. Between 1927 and 1936 the Board relied primarily upon its cancellation system to control liquor use, accounting for over 33,000 individual permit cancellations within this period.

Persons listed on the Cancellation List had no conceptual or legal distinction from those who were formally interdicted by a judge. Their names and likenesses were sent to all vendors, police, standard hotels, and other liquor selling authorities, on the very same lists as those who were legally interdicted through judicial action (LCBO 1928: s.32, s.33; LCBO Circular no. 37, 1927).

In taking this route, the LCBO had fundamentally co-opted the interdiction system technology and deployed it without legal legislation or due process for the first time in the province’s history — listing the names of those with cancelled permits, those who were convicted of specified crimes under the Liquor Control Act, and those who for other reasons the Board believed it “wise and in the interests of the community as a whole” to list ( LCBO Annual Report 1927-28: 7; for more detail on this process, see The Interdiction Process). This development in itself reflects an important social change in regards to how interdiction shaped social action in the province. The movement from legal interdiction to Board-controlled cancellation not only increased the social importance and prevalence of these actions, but also importantly announced the beginning of designated bureaucratic responsibility for interdiction and a marked change in evidence, from conviction to suspicion — that is, from specific violations to actions undertaken in the so-called general “interest.”

As the LCBO absorbed more vivid data on permit holders through data collection regarding those who had their permits cancelled, the Board’s various investigations, and social pressures surrounding the possible “misspending” of issued relief funds during the early stages of the Depression of the 1930s, it became apparent that the Interdiction List was a limited means of keeping problem drinking populations from receiving alcohol. Thus in due course the system was expanded yet again to manage these pressures (LCBO Circular no. 904, 1930).

<< 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 >>