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

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis



Between 1927 and 1975, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario listed over 79,000 individuals on its “interdiction” or “drunk” list. Inclusion on the list not only altered their ability to purchase liquor but also posed implications for their property rights, exposure to surveillance mechanisms, and personal and social relations within their communities. Although the goal of the program was to identify and control the drinking behaviour of known drunks, the LCBO employed surveillance and control mechanisms unevenly across populations, leading to the over-representation of particular populations on the interdiction list.

The Interdiction Process
– By the 1930s the LCBO’s process of interdiction became formalized to include a specific process of identification and investigation. Requests for interdiction would develop either internally, from the justice system or from a member of the general public. Then an investigation would be launched. (Read More)

Unequal Application of Interdiction (1953-1975) – A statistical analysis of the remaining files of individuals interdicted between 1953 and 1975 denotes several predictors of being listed. Gender, occupation, race, who applied for the interdiction, the reason for the application, who the LCBO interviewed during their investigation, and what region of the province the individual was from were all statistically significant predictors of being listed. (Read More)

Social Sorting and the LCBO – As part of its mandate of control the LCBO was required to keep alcohol from certain types of people. For this reason they were required to separate the population of Ontario based on their capacity to drink within the LCBO’s boundaries of control. (Read More)

Interdiction List History – The LCBO’s Interdiction, or drunk list, developed historically from previous laws regarding target prohibitions. (Read More)

The LCBO’s Cancellation List 1927–36 – Since legal interdiction required the actions of a judge and an alcohol related charge, the LCBO developed its own means of adding people to the drunk list. Called the “Cancelation List” internally by the LCBO, listed individuals were subject to the same treatment as those legally interdicted. (Read More)

The Prohibited List 1929–65 – With the rise of those receiving relief (due to the depression of the 1930s) the LCBO needed to expand its interdiction list to include individuals who had not purchased a permit and had no permit to cancel. For this reason the interdiction list was expanded for the first time to include non-permit holders. (Read More)

Preventative Cancellations 1930–75 – Starting in 1930 the LCBO expanded its interdiction list again to allow for the addition of individuals who had yet to commit any crime or engage in any acts of liquor abuse. In these cases the LCBO issued Preventative Cancellations in order to avoid the bad press and what they believed to be the inevitable future acts of liquor abuse that would lead them to add these individuals to the interdiction list. (Read More)

The Interdiction List (LCBO Action) 1965–75 – In 1965 the LCBO formally took over the interdiction process, merging the judicial and non-judicial methods of being listed under their own interdiction list. (Read More)

The Identification of Listed Individuals 1927–75 – The Board employed several technological means of identifying individuals, making their classification known to LCBO employees and enabling the “proper” response dictated by regulations. Most notably it employed the liquor permit to distinguish an individual’s classification. However, those that were sorted by the Board’s various disciplinary systems were primarily identified through the Interdiction List. The list itself was quite simple, denoting only name, address, date of the order, and the regional district in which the individual was classified. (Read More)

Assessment and Analysis of Listed Individuals – The LCBO spent a considerable time analyzing individual purchase records and comparing consumption patterns against a standardized understanding of “reasonable” behaviour. In addition to maximum allowances for purchases, vendors also gathered and employed their local knowledge of both individual circumstances and the disposition of the community in their analysis, determining if someone’s drinking had surpassed acceptable levels and was in need of control. (Read More)