Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
April 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Prohibition in Canada


[This text was published in 1948; for the full citation, see the end of the document]

Prohibition. The first Canadian prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors took place during the War of 1812, when an Act was passed, as a temporary war measure, to prohibit the exportation of grain and to restrain the distillation of spirituous liquors from grain. A local-option measure known as the Canada Temperance Act was passed in 1878, prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors in places that should adopt it. In subsequent years a number of counties and municipalities throughout Canada put the law into force, but the greatest advance in prohibition was made after the outbreak of the World War. In 1915 Saskatchewan closed every bar in the province and greatly reduced the number of dispensaries. A referendum of the people was taken at the latter end of 1916, and as a result the remaining liquor dispensaries were voted out of existence by a majority of seven to one. On June 1, 1916, prohibition became effective in Manitoba ; and in July of the same year Alberta voted for prohibition. In September a referendum was taken in British Columbia and prohibition won; in 1920 the question was recommitted to the people, and defeated. After this, liquor was sold under government supervision, in sealed packages. A legislative enactment declared for prohibition in Ontario in the year 1916. Thus by 1921 every province except Quebec and British Columbia had declared for prohibition. Later, all except Prince Edward Island returned to government control. Under Parts I and II of the Canada Temperance Act, provision is made for the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors in counties and cities. A vote taken under these parts in the county of Compton, Quebec, in 1930, in response to a petition for the repeal of the Act in that county, resulted in favour of the repeal, which immediately became effective. Part III of the Act relates to penalties and persecutions, Part IV to the prohibition of the importation and exportation of intoxicating liquors into and from the provinces, while Part V. enacts provisions in aid of provincial legislation for the control of the liquor traffic. It is frequently known as the "Scott Act", from the fact that it was sponsored by Sir Richard Scott.

Consult W. R. Riddell, The first Canadian war-time prohibition measure (Can. hist. rev ., 1920), and R. E. Spence, Prohibition in Canada (Toronto, 1919).

Source  : W. Stewart Wallace, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. V, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 401p., pp. 172-173

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College