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

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


Unequal Application of Interdiction (1953-1975)

Since the LCBO did not respond to all applications by implementing identical disciplinary sanctions, then certain factors concerning the individual at whom the application was directed would have influenced the Board’s decisions. In our regression analysis we found that this was in fact the case, and that several factors could be effectively used to predict the severity of Board action (see Data and Methods). Specifically, membership within the First Nations, being a woman, when applications were made by police, judges, and male family members, were found to be positive factors, meaning that they were predictors of more severe Board action, while white collar employment, applications by wives, and those identified through breaches of the Liquor Control Act, were discovered to be negative factors, meaning that they were predictors of less severe Board action. What our analysis shows is that the disciplinary technology of the Board was not evenly applied, an “Indian” woman, for example, would have experienced a statistically significant greater likelihood than her “white” counterpart of receiving severe disciplinary action from the LCBO. This analysis also shows the links between Board action and discourses of temperance and moderation, since positive predictors of more severe Board disciplinary action matched those identified as problem users within these discourses.

NB - Data set and method for analysis

Those considered by the Board to be too poor, too young, too immoral, too constitutionally weak, or too “Indian” were to be denied the privilege to purchase liquor legally. Though certain types of individuals specifically mentioned within federal and provincial laws were denied access to liquor, the Board also sought to use the powers of the Interdiction List to control unwanted behaviours such as vagrancy, sexual promiscuity in women, the social drinking behaviours of the working class and the actions of certain racially defined groups.

The findings are broken down by the variables of gender, occupation, applicants, reasons provided for investigation, interviews, region, and race. This sequence accords to analytical organization in the regression model. Within each of the sections, the statistically significant results from the regression are explained and further highlighted through supporting evidence drawn from the LCBO interdiction files as well as other secondary sources.

(1) Gender

Although other variables drew significance away from the role that gender played at later levels of the regression, gender played a significant role at the first level of the regression model. Gender was determined by either the relationship explained in the investigation application or the description of the individual in the interdiction file. In no case was gender reported as ambiguous, unrecorded, or unknown within the LCBO’s files. The first level of the regression showed that the female gender existed in a positive relationship with the severity of board action, displaying a B score of 0.448. This means that women were subject to more severe board action than their male counterparts.

Far more men became the targets of board investigations and interdiction than women, accounting for over 80 percent of all interdiction files. The targeting of men by the interdiction list can be understood not only because they constituted a larger percentage of the drinking population, especially in the early days of the LCBO, but also because of the gendered dimension of the temperance movement and its morality concerning the financial and violent impacts of male drinking on the home (Heron 2003, 173, 232-33; Smart and Osborn 1996, 28-29).

Although LCBO investigations into the actions of men often resulted in milder penalties than those awarded to women, men were nonetheless the subject of the vast majority of interdiction investigations and attention by the LCBO. While the bulk of investigations into both genders ended in the subjects being added to the interdiction list, the successful listing of women was still significantly higher than that of men, accounting for a 10.81 percent difference in interdiction (full interdiction and limited consumption) listing.

Popular culture in the early 1900s presented women’s relationship with alcohol in one of three ways: passive and virtuous women of temperance were seen as “angelic” since they never took a drink; some women were seen as the victims of poverty and violence at the hands of intemperate husbands; and others were seen as overindulgent themselves, prone to violence, sexuality, and uncontrollable behaviour (Heron 2003: 289). In actuality, women’s relationship with alcohol was much more complex than these typifications suggest. Although many Ontario women in the 1920s and 1930s were either active members or supporters of the temperance political movement, if not members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) itself, some women were actively seeking the right to drink (Heron 2003, 289). When prohibition ended in Ontario in 1927, the LCBO was well aware of prohibitionist arguments and gendered constructions; it presented the interdiction list as the key tool that would protect wives and families from the poverty, violence, and uncontrollable behaviour associated with alcohol use (Ferguson 1926; Willison 1924). In internal circulars, the board informed its workers that they were to uphold the stipulations in the Liquor Control Act to ensure that, if an individual “by excessive drinking of liquor, misspends, wastes, or lessens his estate, or injures his health, or interrupts the peace and happiness of his family,” he would be identified and classified, and his consumption would be controlled through interdiction (LCBO Circular 1717, 1928; Liquor Control Act, S.O. 1927, c. 70, s. 95(1)). Once the interdiction list was in place, many women sought to activate the surveillance and disciplinary powers of the board to identify and control drinking and other undesirable behaviour, such as physical abuse. Research by Valverde (2004: 573) suggests that this element of interdiction became even more predominant over time: instances of abuse in interdiction cases reached rates as high as 51.95 percent when 1975-90 Liquor Licencing Board of Ontario (LLBO) interdiction data are included.

The LCBO’s attitude toward female drinkers was the same as the temperate public opinion of the time: “good” women were against drink of any kind, and “a female in a public drinking establishment was probably a prostitute” and definitely of inferior moral character (Heron 2003: 289). To protect the morality of men and women, LCBO policy limited public female drinking within designated “ladies and escorts” areas of licenced drinking establishments.

These areas were regulated differently from men’s sections, and, as Heron points out, they were required to be structurally separate and have their own entrances and washrooms (Ibid: 294). Women were allowed to drink in these specifically defined legal and cultural spaces, but they could do so only under the protection of their male “escorts” (Ibid: 289). These regulations were strictly enforced and constantly policed by the LCBO and in later years by LLBO investigation officers. Women drinking in licenced establishments had to step lightly around the liquor inspectors and be sure not to stray far from their escorts if they were to avoid unwanted classification. The ultimate faux pas, however, was leaving the ladies and escorts room and entering the male side of drinking establishments – as doing so led to the possibility of a woman interacting with an unmarried man while under the influence.

Women’s physical features and the conditions of their homes were also commented on in official investigation documents of the LCBO. Statements such as “she had not bothered to do the laundry or clean up” or “the home was neat and tidy and nicely furnished” were common in women’s interdiction files (See Archives of Ontario 1929-90, RG 36-13, Interdiction File 164; Archives of Ontario 1929-90, RG 36-13, Interdiction File 178). The presence of men, other than husbands, in women’s lives was also of great importance to investigators; sexual deviance was understood as a necessary ground for interdiction. In one police report to the LCBO, an officer thought it pertinent to question whether a woman should have the right to drink because she conducted visits to a married man’s hotel room, even though the man “seems very friendly with her husband” and was reportedly a family friend (Archives of Ontario 1929-90, RG 36-13, Interdiction File 64). In other cases, sexual promiscuity was deemed a sufficient ground for more than simply listing, as one investigator reported in the case of an interdicted woman: “Mrs. _____ is guilty of associating with another man and the younger members of the family are aware of their mother’s conduct”; the children, the investigator concluded, “are better off with a father who drinks in moderation than a mother whose conduct is questionable,” (Archives of Ontario 1929-90, RG 36-13, Interdiction File 283).

(2) Occupation

The occupation held by the individual under investigation was also reviewed, yet no particular occupation offered significant results. However, when occupations were recoded as manual labour (blue collar) and non-manual labour (white collar), the regression yielded significant results (see Blackburn, Brooks, and Jarman 2001; Dale 1987). Although blue-collar and white-collar occupations yielded negative B scores, indicating that those whose occupations were denoted were less likely to be the recipients of severe board action compared with those whose occupations were not specified, there remained a significant distinction between these two occupational types. Specifically, those employed in white-collar occupations saw a B score of – 0.792, while blue-collar individuals’ B score was – 0.558. The latter resulted in a statistically significant difference between occupations based on manual labour and those that were not, in addition to the significant difference found between those who reportedly held occupations and those who did not.5 Not only were members of the working class recipients of greater disciplinary action by the board, but also the predominance of occupations within the interdiction files leans drastically toward them. Occupations from the capitalist class were simply not found.

Occupations of individuals under LCBO investigation, 1953-75

Consistent with the popular sentiment of the temperance movement of the time, the LCBO was specifically aimed at preventing sales to “poor people, whose families could ill afford the loss” (LCBO 1927-28: 13). Within temperance ideology, the financial factor of the immorality of liquor sales was of central importance, as many political cartoons and much temperance literature depicted the impoverishment of working-class families by unscrupulous saloon owners and class-based male drinking (Gray 1972, 38-51; Heron 2003, 121-28; Smart and Osborn 1996, 28-29; Spence 1926). In the 1920s, it was understood and accepted within temperance circles that the “poor” or “working” man had little to no disposable income, and thus his purchases of liquor must come at the expense of his family. In its own reports, the LCBO stressed this point, explaining that “the purchase of liquor ought to come and must come after, and a long way after, the necessities of life, and adequate duty to dependents, if proper living conditions are to be maintained,” and the board would see to it that liquor would go only to those who could afford it (LCBO 1927-28, 10). To battle the perceived misspending of income, the LCBO incorporated several regulatory and procedural actions in order to maintain the temperance of the working class. First, LCBO stores were specifically directed not to remain open after 5 p.m. to remove the temptation for the working man.6 Second, the board required that liquor permits record the occupation of the bearer as well as devote a column within the permit where “the actual amount of each purchase is inserted; the cash values totalled and carried forward” (LCBO 1929-30, 9). This action was taken in order to “directly bring home to those purchasing liquor the amount of money they are spending on luxuries, possibly to the expense of real necessities” (9). Third, of course, was the interdiction of individuals found by vendors or through investigations to be spending “an unreasonable amount of money” on liquor (LCBO Circular 403, 1928).

While the LCBO appeared to seek out interdictions based on the amount of money being misspent, its methodology was questionable. Excessive purchases were determined not only by volume but also by one’s wealth – that is, extrapolated from one’s reported occupation. In a circular to its vendors, the LCBO laid out this distinction, reporting that “certain law-abiding citizens are very unnecessarily humiliated in front of the public when questioned about the amount of purchases on their permit,” explaining that “at no time was it the intention that the general public should be limited in their purchasing from our stores ... If people are law-abiding and financially able, [there is] no reason why they should not be granted the privilege of buying what they wish” (LCBO Circular 3833, 1947). With this in mind, the LCBO perceived intemperate drinking nearly exclusively as a problem of the poor and working class, while efforts to control this type of drinking were based on occupational classification.

(3) Applicants

Outcomes of LCBO interdiction investigations were highly predictable based on the sources of applications for investigations. Initially, the ability to apply to the LCBO for an interdiction investigation was to be limited to close family members and the judiciary. However, the records of the interdiction files depict a situation where anyone could contact the board and request an investigation. Applications came from two main sources: from institutions such as branches of the criminal justice system, including the police, judges, hospitals, and mental institutions, and from individuals. Lang and McNeely (1963), who gained access to the complete list before the 1927-53 records were mostly destroyed, found that 18 percent of the applications came from institutions, while 31 percent came from individual sources. These numbers are virtually identical to those tabulated from the remaining records. Significant relationships within the regression existed for institutional applications submitted by police, judges, and the LCBO’s own employees, while significant relationships for individual applications were discovered for wives, fathers, male family members (excluding fathers), and individuals themselves when compared with applications submitted by female family members (excluding wives).

Institutional applicants for interdiction, 1953-75

Institutional applications enjoyed a significantly higher percentage of success at having people listed than requests by individuals – by a margin of 26.74 percent.7 The regression provided B scores at the seventh level of the regression of 3.427 and 1.191 for judges and the LCBO’s internal analysis respectively. Applications by police were significant and remained so for the third and fourth models, recording B scores of 0.805 and 0.784. Although these were the sources of all significant relationships, applications came from a wide variety of sources: police, judges, aid organizations, municipalities, and bands. The table above shows all institutional sources and the percentage that each represented in the remaining interdiction files of the LCBO. Within the institutional group, judicial action stands out as the most influential on board action. An application made by a judge increased the severity of the board response score greater than any other measured variable, impacting the final score by 3.427. Although the Liquor Control Act empowered judges to issue only indefinite interdiction orders that required judicial action to be removed, the LCBO’s status of being literally above the law led it to reclassify or overturn such orders as it saw fit (Liquor Control Act, S.O. 1927, c. 70, s. 25.2). Between 1927 and 1952, the final year that the LCBO published its interdiction data, it had altered or overturned the interdiction orders of nearly 7,000 individuals. Applications originating from the LCBO organization itself were also found to be significant, yielding a B score of 1.191 at the seventh level of the regression. Most of these applications originated from local vendors and investigators who identified individuals through their purchasing or drinking behaviour, though the LCBO head office also ran detailed analyses and sorts of interdiction list data to further identify individuals. Similar to the case of judges, the role of local LCBO personnel was substantial in the interdiction process, though again they remained secondary to the powers of head office, which ultimately dictated interdiction orders and policy (Ibid). The role of police applicants was deemed significant by the regression analysis. A stronger relation was discovered denoting the statistical interaction of police applications with geographical region, requiring them to be analyzed as a conjoined predictor (see section on regions below).

Applications by individuals were made primarily by women. Over 80 percent of requests came from women, most of who (41.36 percent) sought to have their husbands added to the LCBO’s “drunk list.” Mothers were the second largest classification, making up just over 20 percent of the total requests by individuals, followed by the highest male category of fathers at 8.03 percent. The table below shows the breakdown of individual requests by relationship to the individual investigated.

Breakdown of individual applications for investigation 1953-75

The linear regression analysis yielded significant results for applications made by wives, fathers, and male family members. Of the individual applicants, applications from male family members other than fathers (e.g., husbands, sons, in-laws, etc.) had the largest impact on the severity of board action, with a B score of 0.828. The second largest action came from fathers, with a B score of 0.783, followed by wives, with a B score of -0.668. In these cases, a strong gendered element to the application process is present, as both male categories depicted positive relationships when compared with female ones.

It can be seen throughout the interdiction files that in some investigations conducted by the police or LCBO investigators women’s requests for having an individual listed either were not taken seriously or were devalued. The main explanations given for disregarding requests were that women involved were too emotional or presented overly temperate values. One LCBO investigator explained, “his mother is quite temperamental and it has been ascertained that she wrote a letter to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario requesting renewal of the Prohibitory Order mentioned above while in a fit of temper,” so she was not taken seriously (Archives of Ontario 1929-90, RG 36-13, Interdiction File 352). In another case, an investigator cited a husband’s intemperate actions as caused by his wife, whose actions were “putting undo stress on him and his business,” and she had “deprived [him] of sexual intercourse” for six weeks. In another case, when a woman applied for her husband to be listed because he became physically abusive when he drank, the police investigator reported that “as stated in Mrs. _____’s letter he does get abusive when drinking and I have been to the residence on 2 occasions during the past year [to investigate abuse cases], but Mrs. _____ does not help much as she is a teetotaller [a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union] and is strictly against drink of any kind,” (Archives of Ontario 1929-90, RG 36-13, Interdiction File 271). In all of these reported cases, the investigators opted not to recommend listing. From the severity of board action, one can see how the gender of the applicant played a definite role in interdiction classification.

Gender of the applicant and severity of the action, 1929-75

Individuals who applied for interdiction on their own behalf were dealt with differently by the board. In such cases, the regression analysis demonstrated a significant relationship, with a positive B score of 1.253. When individuals applied on their own behalf, they were commonly issued a one-year interdiction order – that is, as long as the investigator was satisfied that the letter had in fact been sent by the person listed in the application. Self applications accounted for almost 8 percent of all interdiction applications (1929-75), though some (just over 20 percent) of these letters were typed on police letterhead and signed as witnessed by constables. Due to the close relationship between the LCBO and the OPP, it is likely that police officers used their knowledge of LCBO procedures, especially in the case of self applications, to quickly list individuals whom they thought were in need of “extra attention” while not being required to undergo a complete formal investigation (LCBO Circular 557, 1928).

(4) Reasons for Application

Under the Liquor Control Act, interdiction was to be used in very specific cases, where an individual, “by excessive drinking of liquor, misspends, wastes, or lessens his estate, or injures his health, or interrupts the peace and happiness of his family.” But the board also reserved the right to have an individual listed “for any cause which it deems sufficient with or without any hearing,” (Liquor Control Act, S.O. 1927, c. 70, s. 95(1), s. 43(1)). Many reasons were provided by applicants to explain requests for investigation, but few justifications resulted in significant relationships when statistically analyzed. This was perhaps due to the role that police and financial interviews (discussed below) had on the final score, drawing significance away from the reasons provided in the applications. Interestingly, the specific wording of the reasons why the board should investigate an individual were fairly constant within the applications, making recoding virtually unnecessary. The reasons provided, and their predominance within the remaining interdiction files, are presented below.

Reasons cited within interdiction applications 1929-75

The linear regression revealed one reason for interdiction to be significant breaches of the Liquor Control Act. Since the law pertained to drinking behaviour in the province, the board sought to control it through the strength of the interdiction list. Although interdiction orders were automatically handed out for specific sections of the LCA, such as drinking and driving, the board was more focused on controlling crimes that violated its moral mandate. Specifically, the board was interested in, and tracked, persons who were convicted under the LCA, placing them within one of three subcategories: those who sold liquor – section 87(1); those who permitted drunkenness – section 105(a); and a general catch-all category. These categories were then used to tabulate and perform risk assessment and analysis. Interestingly, breaches of the Liquor Control Act yielded a B score of –1.123 compared with cases where no reason was provided, denoting it as having a negative impact on the severity of board action when taking all other measured factors into consideration. This relationship could be due to the minor nature of several crimes classified under the board’s BLCA “general” heading or to the fact that these individuals were identified through the criminal justice system and did not necessarily fall into the category of those in need of losing the privilege to drink.

(5) Interviews

Interviews were necessarily conducted as part of LCBO investigations to determine an individual’s fitness to retain the privilege to drink. According to early board instructions, investigations consisted of collecting “such particulars as it is possible to obtain as to the character and standing of the permittee” (LCBO 1927-28, 13). However, the process became more formalized over time – specifically requiring police reports and the interviews of several key informants. Interdiction records reveal that the LCBO’s directions were interpreted quite liberally in this regard and that data were collected on a wide variety of subjects from multiple sources, often resulting in very detailed personal files. In most cases, the LCBO relied on the police for its main source of data collection, but the complete list of interview sources and their predominance reveal the extent and scope of the LCBO’s investigative arm.

LCBO interview subjects 1929-75

In nearly all of the interviews contained within the investigator’s reports, personal information was passed on to the LCBO as well as the interviewee’s recommendation for board action. This information allowed for an analysis that accounted for the impact of unfavourable reports from the interviewees. The linear regression shows that significant relationships exist for the police and finances – a composite of both employer interviews and banking information – when compared with court records.

Interviews related to finances included records from both employers and bankers. These groups were coded together as they related nearly identical information – in most cases employment and spending information. Primarily, LCBO inspectors gathered their data from financial information and extrapolated how much income could be directed to liquor purchases without negatively affecting the family or “lessening his estate” (LCBO Circular 1717, 1928). Interviews on finances often included job performance, employment regularity, house ownership, and spending on essentials such as groceries and children’s clothing. A representative report involving an employer interview stated that “Mr. _____ is employed at Chrysler Canada Ltd. On [date] he arrived at work in an intoxicated condition. For this, he received a three day suspension from work and was advised by the company to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. On [date] he took a five-week leave of absence from work due to illness. During that time he became intoxicated almost every day. He spent $30.00 a day on liquor for himself and friends, and the family is beginning to suffer financially,” (Archives of Ontario 1929-90, RG 36-13, Interdiction File 147). Over 28 percent of the interdiction files contained financial interviews that were more extensive than simply job descriptions, and negative financial interviews positively impacted the board action score by 0.913.

Police interviews appeared in over 56 percent of the interdiction investigation files (1929-75) and consisted mainly of police knowledge of the subject under investigation. As interdiction investigations became more formalized over time, police interviews came to include references to all incidents, arrests, and convictions in which the subject was involved. Furthermore, most files that included police interviews contained copies of the original police reports and any supporting evidence. Police interviews that denoted the need for an individual to be interdicted resulted in a positive B score of 1.281, thus increasing the severity of predicted board action.

(6) Region

In an analysis of the characteristics of individuals listed by the board, those who were classified as living within the northern region of the province suffered a statistically significant increase in the likelihood of being listed as well as an increase in the severity of board action when compared with the central region of the province.

Regional distribution and interdiction 1927-75

Not only was the northern region of the province found to be a significant predictor of the severity of board action, but the regression also determined an important interaction effect between the northern region and applications by police to have individuals interdicted. Interaction terms can be explained as “to exist when the association of one variable (‘X’) to another (‘Y’) depends on the value (or ‘state,’ or ‘condition’) of a third variable (‘Z’)” (Alford 1998, 39) – in this case, the severity of board action in regard to police applications was dependent on provincial region. This interaction term resulted in a B score of 0.659, denoting a positive relationship to the severity of board action.

The north was seen by the LCBO head office as containing clientele “of the lowest type – Indians and Bushmen” – in need of strict control (LLBO minutes, 9 January 1958, quoted in Valverde 2003, 195). Historically, the north had voted in favour of legalizing liquor sales and, upon the first day of the LCBO stores being open, made national news in regard to the volume of liquor purchased in one day. The Globe (2 June 1927, 3) reported that, on the board’s opening day, stores in the northern towns of Fort William and Port Arthur sold liquor to more than 2,500 people – resulting in enough sales to “quench a $15,000 thirst.”

In order to curtail northern drinking, LCBO expansion into the northern region of the province was slow, and until the 1940s and 1950s few localities contained a liquor store (LCBO 1940-60). The reduced number of northern outlets, in combination with the remoteness of northern communities, created a situation where those individuals who wanted to drink had to travel large distances to obtain liquor. This influx of drinkers into small northern communities was unwelcome, and intruding populations were often defined as “Indians” by locals – though this racial classification was not firmly connected to lineage or birthright (see Jacobson’s notorious text Bended Elbow, 1975). In the northern region especially, these populations were a tarnish on the record of both policing organizations and the LCBO as individuals publicly displayed the negative aspects of the liquor trade and led to public criticism of both organizations.

To solve this problem, the interdiction list was touted by both city officials and the LCBO as a means to control these populations, allowing officers to “at least remov[e] these people from the main city streets,” (“Welfare Minister to Visit Region,” Kenora Minor News, 7 July 1974, 1). In this way, interdiction served as a blunt instrument of social control employed by policing institutions to clear streets of target populations, reducing both visibility and public scrutiny. As one officer explained, “it is highly improbable that putting this man on the prohibited list will do him any good but it will give Mrs._____ some protection by being able to call police when this man appears,” (Archives of Ontario 1929-90, RG 36-13, Interdiction File 119).

(7) Race

Within the interdiction files, few cases specifically denoted race. Investigators commented on race in approximately 6 percent of the interdiction files singling out both “Indians”8 and “Negroes.” The racial classification of “Indian” proved significant at the final level of the regression, increasing the severity of board action by a score of 0.558.

The LCBO perceived “Indian” drinking as a serious threat, and significant resources were committed to keep individuals with this social/legal classification from purchasing alcohol. “Indians” could not purchase alcohol legally until 1954 due to stipulations under the Indian Act, while Ontario law specifically excluded all individuals within the “Indian,” “Non-Treaty Indian,” and “Interdicted” legal classifications (Indian Act, 1876 S.C. c.18, s. 79-85; Liquor Control Act, S.O. c. 70, s. 44). The board’s fear of serving “Indians” was twofold. First, the board feared any political or public backlash from being seen as exploiting “Indians’” “natural weakness”9 toward liquor consumption. Second, the board feared criminal prosecution under the Indian Act or Ontario’s Liquor Control Act, both of which specifically criminalized liquor sale to, purchase by, or possession for “Indians” and other interdicted persons in Canada. Before 1954, the LCBO’s policy was based on prototypical understandings of race, as the LCBO explained: “In view of the technical difficulty of deciding whether an Indian may come under the prohibitions of the Indian Act, whether he is a non-treaty Indian, or whether he may have become enfranchised and occupying the status of a white man, vendors, permit issuers and all others concerned are instructed to refuse all applications for permits by persons of Indian Blood,” (Archives of Ontario 1927-76, RG 41-3, LCBO Circular 1292, 1931). After 1954, First Nations-LCBO drinking relations became more complex; like “drunkards” who regained their drinking rights after serving their stipulated periods on the interdiction list, “Indians” had to show the LCBO “that [they] were capable of taking a few drinks and be law-abiding” before they were given full drinking privileges and the right “to have beer and liquor on the reserves,” (Archives of Ontario, RG 49-132, file D-53 1953, 560). As the LCBO head office explained to employees, “section 95 (1) of the act provides that intoxicants may be sold to an Indian for consumption in a public place in accordance with a law of the Province where the sale takes place authorizing the sale of intoxicants to a person for consumption in a public place. This means within the Province of Ontario, Indians may be served in establishments which are holders of licences issued by the Liquor Licencing Board. It does NOT mean that Indians may purchase spirits, wine and beer from Ontario Liquor Control Board Stores” (LCBO Circular 4753, 1954). However, as First Nations leaders from across the province had predicted, their new rights did not solve the problems of LCBO racial classification, and many of their people quickly found themselves formally listed on the interdiction list. As Chief Adams of the Sarnia reserve explained, “if we took the privileges that you suggest, I could go to the beverage room and have a few drinks. Then if I came home to the reserve drunk, the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] would throw me in jail. It just looks like a trap to me. If we wanted a glass of beer, and could take it home, that would be better. With the present setup, liquor is an awful detriment to the Indian. It is not a fair thing,” (Archives of Ontario, RG 49-132, file D-53 1953, 560). After 1959, First Nations bands could apply to the government to be granted the right to become wet – that is, making liquor possession on reserve lands legal. After the formal declaration was made by the band and reviewed by the federal Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa, the request was forwarded to the LCBO, which could either grant or deny this privilege. Bands in Ontario acted on this newfound “freedom” to differing degrees; some petitioned as soon as 1959, while others waited until the early 1960s, and some bands decided to maintain the prohibitions placed on their reserves (LCBO Circular S-363, 1959; Canadian Corrections Association 1967, 32).

Also in 1962, the year that a large portion of First Nations bands in Ontario had contacted the LCBO over allowing alcohol on their reserves, the LCBO decided to discontinue its liquor permit and liquor consumption surveillance programs. Regardless of the legality of First Nations drinking between 1954 and 1975, one’s racial classification of “Indian” remained a strong predictor of the severity of board action.

Sections of this page appear in Thompson, Scott (2009) "A Kind of Prohibition: Targets of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario's Interdiction List" In Sean P. Hier and Josh Greenberg Surveillance: Power, Problems and Politics. UBC Press: Vancouver.


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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 >>