Prohibition

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This article was researched and written by Gurpreet Paul. He hopes to attend the University of Western Ontario to study business in order to become a banker.

Significance of Prohibition in Canada

Prohibition in the early 1920’s was a law in which forbid the sale of alcohol, in Canada and the United States of America. This ban also included manufacturing, transporting, import and export of such beverages. It caused many problems for Canadians and individuals as a nation, through the distribution and sale of liquor illegally, also organized crime.


Prohibition Era in the Provinces

Yukon: 1917-1921 Northwest Territories: 1932 British Columbia: 1917-1921 Alberta: 1916-1924 Saskatchewan: 1917-1923 Manitoba: 1916-1923 Ontario: 1916-1927 Quebec: 1919-1921 Prince Edward’s Island: 1900-1948 New Brunswick: 1917-1927 Nova Scotia: 1910-1930 Newfoundland: 1917-1925


Prohibition in Canada

Prohibition in Canada, like the United States also attempted to stop the distribution of liquor at the beginning of the 19th century. This was mostly due to the temperance movement, forcing closure of all drinking establishments which were known for misery and depression. Major organizations for prohibition during this era consisted of: the Dominion Alliance for the Total Suppression of the Liquor Traffic and the Women’s Christians Temperance Union, whom heavily oppose alcohol and considered it to be the ‘drink of the devil’. Prince Edward’s Island was the first province to bring in prohibition in the early 1900’s, which evidently lasted up to 50 years. It was later followed by the remaining provinces during the First World War up until March of 1918. Though enforcing the law of prohibition seemed near to impossible, these temperance groups pressured the government to limit the distribution of alcoholic beverages. The result was the creation of government boards which now controls the distribution and manufacturing of alcohol, which in Ontario is the LCBO.


Negative Impact of Prohibition in Canada

Even though prohibition was sought to be a good thing there were many problems which arose. Firstly there was the introduction of the illegal establishments which profited highly selling illegal liquors, such as ‘speakeasies’ and ‘blind pigs’. Also gangs benefited greatly by the bootlegging of alcohol, where individuals would get rich importing and exporting liquor making it a multi-million dollar organization. There was also the bizarre occurrence of getting drunk off medicines containing alcohol which is very dangerous if overdosed.


Positive Impact of Prohibition in Canada

In many Canadian lives prohibition played a positive impact. Instead of spending money on booze the workingman now had extra money lying around which greatly helped the household. Women abuse dropped substantially since most of it was alcohol related, as well as the number of arrests by a staggering 93%. Industrial efficiency improved drastically and life seemed to be better.


Drunken Act

The major legislative attempt to prohibit the sale of alcohol began late in the 19th century with the introduction of the Drunken Act. The Drunken act, instituted in 1864 “allowed any county to forbid the sale of liquor by majority vote”, in Canada. This act was implicated by the Laurier government in 1898, but even though a majority of 51% of the country voted for prohibition the law was never actually enacted.



Speakeasy

Originally used to describe an old Irish woman who sold liquor without a license in the late 19th century, the term speakeasy first came into use during the 1920’s to the early 30’s, otherwise known as the prohibition era. It was a term used in order to avoid suspicion of illegal activities that in this case involved liquor. A speakeasy was a high-class establishment used for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages for wealthy individuals, which could be often connected to organized crime. Sometimes placed behinds restaurants, they would often consist of backdoors allowing for quick exits during police calls. Bribes were often given to police by speakeasy operators to leave them alone or to give an advance notice of raids, where “For every one bottle that was caught, over 100 bottles got through”.


Blind Pig

Considered the equivalent of a speakeasy, a blind pig was also an establishment that provided the sale of illegal alcohol during the prohibition era. A blind pig was mainly for individuals of lower class unlike those of a speakeasy, but ultimately provided the same service. Slang terms used for a blind pig consisted of blind tiger or booze can, where current examples of a blind pig can be referred to as a “after hours club” or “keg party”.


Rum-running

Rum-running was very popular during the prohibition era it is defined as the business of smuggling or also transporting illegal alcoholic beverages over sea. It was invented during prohibition as a way to illegal import alcohol into Canada and the United States when ships transported liquors consisting of Whiskey, French champagne, and English Gin into speakeasies. In order to avoid suspicion a term called rum line was used in order to transport the goods on land without getting caught by the coast guard. This technique consisted of ships stopping at the U. S limit of jurisdiction, where then smaller boats referred to as “rum row” would then bring the shipments in. This type of business was greatly contributed by Canadian gangsters such as Rocco Perri and probably the most famous rum runner called “Real McCoy”. Trips by rum runners from Canada were made through the great lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway typically due to the low risk of getting caught. When prohibition finally ended on December, 5, 1933 rum-running became useless.


Rocco Perri

Sometimes referred as “Canada’s King of the Bootleggers” and “Canada’s Al Capone”, Rocco Perri was thoroughly involved in the illegal distribution of liquor and organized crime. Starting out in the neighborhoods of Hamilton as the head of the Calabrian mob, Rocco Perri’s bootlegging empire expanded from many parts of Canada into the United States. He would launder liquor “as turnips and sent boxcar loads south to New York and west to Chicago”. Rocco also sold liquor in Ontario, where it was illegal to manufacture and export, but not distribute. He kept up his racketeering up until the end of prohibition but was finally caught by Frank Zaneth (the RCMP’s Operative No. 1) during the beginning of the World War II through the usage of the war measures act. Soon after released at the end of the Second World War Rocco Perri disappeared, where “it is believed that he’s in a barrel of cement at the bottom of Hamilton Bay”.


Bibliography