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Prohibition in Canada

Prohibition in Canada came about as a result of the temperance movement. It called for moderation or total abstinence from alcohol, based on the belief that drinking was responsible for many of society’s ills. The Canada Temperance Act (Scott Act) of 1878 gave local governments the “local option” to ban the sale of alcohol. Prohibition was first enacted on a provincial basis in Prince Edward Island in 1901. It became law in the remaining provinces, as well as in Yukon and Newfoundland, during the First World War. Liquor could be legally produced in Canada (but not sold there) and legally exported out of Canadian ports. Most provincial laws were repealed in the 1920s. PEI was the last to give up the “the noble experiment” in 1948.  

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Temperance Movement in Canada

The temperance movement was an international social and political campaign of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was based on the belief that drinking was responsible for many of society’s ills. It called for moderation or total abstinence from alcohol. This led to the legal prohibition of alcohol in many parts of Canada. The Canada Temperance Act (Scott Act) of 1878 gave local governments the “local option” to ban the sale of alcohol. In 1915 and 1916, all provinces but Quebec prohibited the sale of alcohol as a patriotic measure during the First World War. Most provincial laws were repealed in the 1920s in favour of allowing governments to control alcohol sales. Temperance societies were later criticized for distorting economic activity, and for encouraging drinking and organized crime.

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Seagram

Seagram Company Limited, commonly known as Seagram or Seagram’s, was the world’s largest producer and distributor of distilled spirits. Its head offices were in Montréal. While Seagram traced its roots back to a distillery founded in 1857, it was incorporated as a public company in 1928 under the name Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Ltd., a holding company that acquired the capital stocks of Distillers Corporation Ltd. and Joseph E. Seagram & Sons Ltd. It gained notoriety during American prohibition (1920–33), during which time Seagram legally exported spirits directly and circuitously to the United States. The company was majority owned and operated by the Bronfman family; Samuel Bronfman established the company in 1928 and his eldest son, Edgar, took over after his death in 1971. Edgar in turn handed control to his son Edgar Jr. in 1994. The company expanded and diversified a few times, branching from the liquor business to the oil and gas industry in the 1950s and 1960s, the petrochemicals industry in the 1980s, with industry giant DuPont, and the entertainment and communications business in the 1990s, with MCA Inc. and Universal. In 2000, the company was sold to French conglomerate Vivendi, who retained Seagram’s entertainment and communications wing but sold its distilling interests to Pernod Ricard and Diageo.

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John Walter Jones

John Walter Jones, farmer, politician, premier of PEI (b at Pownal, PEI 14 Apr 1878; d at Ottawa 31 Mar 1954). An unsuccessful Progressive candidate in the federal election of 1921, Jones was first elected to the provincial legislature as a Liberal in 1935.

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Distilling Industry

The distilling industry is that part of the food and beverage industries engaged in clarifying, flavouring, blending and aging alcohol to make potable spirits (eg, brandies, grain spirits, rum) and establishments which manufacture ethyl alcohol, whether they are or are not used in potable spirits.

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RJR-MacDonald Case

In the RJR-MacDonald case (1995), a 7-2 majority of the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that the federal law regulating the use of tobacco products rested on Parliament's jurisdiction in the criminal law area, in the division of powers sector, as set out in section 91 (27) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

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John Wilson Bengough

Bengough is also of secondary interest as a 19th-century social radical, to whom communalism, vegetarianism, feminism, antivivisectionism and prohibition combined in one vast utopian ideal.

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James David Stewart

James David Stewart, lawyer, politician, premier of PEI (b at Lower Montague, PEI 15 Jan 1874; d at Charlottetown 10 Oct 1933). Stewart was premier of PEI 1923-27 and from 1931 until his death.

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I'm Alone

I'm Alone, a rumrunner based in Lunenburg, NS, one of several hundred vessels that supplied illicit liquor to a PROHIBITION-bound US during the 1920s. In March 1929 a US Coast Guard cutter sighted it when it had engine trouble in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Bob Edwards

An alcoholic, usually in debt, Edwards moved to Toronto in 1909, then to Montréal, Port Arthur, Ont, and Winnipeg, returning to Calgary in 1911. Unconventional to the end, he supported Prohibition in the referendum of 1916, then won election as an independent in the 1921 provincial elections.

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Referendum

A referendum is the asking of a political question to an electorate, for direct decision by general vote. Although federal referendums are rare in Canada, there have been numerous provincial referendums and plebiscites since Confederation.

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Cannabis Legalization in Canada

Cannabis, also known as marijuana (among countless other names), is a psychoactive intoxicant that was banned in Canada from 1923 until medical cannabis became legal in 2001. The consumption and sale of recreational cannabis was legalized and regulated on 17 October 2018, after Parliament passed Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. Legalization was supported by a majority of Canadians, despite concerns about the drug’s addictiveness and health effects, especially among young people.

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Harlan Carey Brewster

Harlan Carey Brewster, politician, premier of British Columbia 1916-18 (b at Harvey, NB 10 Nov 1870; d at Calgary 1 Mar 1918). Educated in New Brunswick and Boston, Massachusetts, and qualified as a printer and deep-sea navigator, Brewster moved to BC about 1893.

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Wartime Home Front

The two world wars of the 20th century were total wars that involved the whole nation, and the "home front" became a critical part of Canada’s effort.

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George Henry Murray

George Henry Murray, lawyer, politician, premier of Nova Scotia (b at Grand Narrows, NS 7 June 1861; d at Montréal 6 Jan 1929). Murray's unbroken 27 years in power (1896-1923) is a British Empire and Commonwealth record. Leadership of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party fell to Murray when W.S.

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Brewing Industry in Canada

Brewing in Canada evolved from a household necessity into a commercial industry that, while short lived in New France, grew rapidly under British rule. From its regional roots to national consolidation and the rise of the craft beer movement, the brewing industry has both shaped and adapted to Canadians’ tastes. Aside from a brief period of Prohibition, it has also been a large, stable source of tax income for governments. In 2016, beer accounted for roughly $13.6 billion of Canada’s gross domestic product, or 0.7 per cent of the economy. The industry employs nearly 149,000 people, or 0.8 per cent of Canadian workers.

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Assisted Suicide in Canada: The Rodriguez Case (1993)

In the early 1990s, Sue Rodriguez submitted to the courts that section 241(b) of the Criminal Code, which prohibited assisted suicide, was constitutionally invalid. (See also Assisted Suicide in Canada.) Rodriguez suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and wanted the legal right to have a physician’s help in ending her own life. On 30 September 1993, a 5–4 majority of the Supreme Court of Canada upheld section 241(b), declaring that it was constitutional and did not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nonetheless, Rodriguez committed suicide in February 1994, assisted by an anonymous doctor and in the presence of NDP MP Svend Robinson, who had championed her cause. In 2015, the Supreme Court decided unanimously to strike down the prohibition and allow medically assisted suicide, which was officially legalized with the passing of the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Act on 17 June 2016. In March 2021, new legislation was passed that expanded eligibility for MAID.

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Peter Mitchell

Peter Mitchell, premier of New Brunswick (1866–67), lawyer, shipbuilder (born 4 January 1824 in Newcastle, New Brunswick; died 25 October 1899 in Montréal, QC).