The Canadian Prohibition: Part II : The struggle to find a balance between abstinence & abuse

The Canadian Prohibition: Part II : The struggle to find a balance between abstinence & abuse


2013-08-08 13.16.53

Mikkeller Brewery Fermentation tank in Copenhagen

Last week we discussed a brief history of alcohols role in creating civilization and Canada’s current cultural prohibition.

Now we’ll focus on the government’s role in that cultural prohibition, and the messages of the neo-prohibitionist movement.


Cheers! Salud! Slante! Kanpai!

The Government is clearly happy to reap the tax benefits of alcohol but not keen to be seen encouraging ‘healthy’ consumption. Little statement is released beyond temperance style scare tactic messages.Where is the mention of the healthful effects of alcohol?

Where is the discussion of alcohols role as the first trademarked product?

Where is the discussion of alcohols role in creating global trade?


 We are clearly in a ‘dry’ culture when an inordinate amount of people are preoccupied with ‘alcohols problems’.

Beer or alcohol in a convenience store or grocery store? Not outside of Quebec, as that will clearly lead to instant booze fueled hysteria in the populace.

Ever want to enjoy a beautiful bottle of wine in a park with a date. You’d think you’d been caught in possession of illicit drugs if police happen to pass by. There’s clearly no way you can be trusted to enjoy yourself with class and take your garbage with you – without smashing the bottle and turning into crazed “louts”.

Canada’s outdated laws cover interprovincial movement of alcohol. It is illegal to walk over the border of British Columbia into Alberta with a case of wine in your hands.

Having been on TV to talk about the craft of bartending, I’ve always found it humorous that if your guest is a chef they will try the food they present on-air. If it’s a drink from a bartender they pose with the drink, smile and set it down without a sip as the camera goes to commercial. (RANT!)

What is the implied result if the drink was tasted? “Everyone viewing at home, skip work, get drunk!” Chaos ensues. Riiight!

Until very recently there was a total ban on all liquor advertising on transit, trains and areas close to transit. Again, what is the presumption? Don’t drink and drive, but if you’re not driving just don’t look at it. Don’t think about it! #Thoughtcrime

The Canadian Government forbids the consumption of alcohol in all advertising

The craft industry moving into the mainstream will do more than any other argument to help people to appreciate the difference between imbibing and getting #shitfaced. Craft is very much about the products, the culture and the community rituals of drink.

Craft folks eagerly spread the news of boutique liquor stores that cater to quality products.

“Dude, did you hear, Vine Arts, in Calgary, has St.George’s Spirits now!” – “Head to Sherbrooke Liquor, in Edmonton, they have 1000 craft beers!”

To be clear I am against the abuse of alcohol, such as in the case of drunk driving. Which again is an apology I feel almost compelled to write because someone will invariably bring it up. I wish to encourage a drinking etiquette that encourages healthy consumption, as opposed to the gross simplification of temperance messages. Thankfully we have abundant record of the failure of the “Noble Experiment“.

The lessons were not learned by everyone.

Candy Lightner the founder and first President of MADD said,

“it has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned.” She explained, “I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”

Michael Jacobson, founder of The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a neo-prohibitionist group operating under the auspices of being a Consumer Advocacy group, was quoted as saying,

“Alcohol, even when consumed in moderation, is perhaps CSPI’s most hated product. The group’s Health letter has asserted that ‘the last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones.’”

Canada’s Temperance Foundation has helpful information on the anti-alcohol cause. My favorite is “How Drugs & Alcohol Equal Crime“, which has a bunch of frightening statistics about gangs and drugs, yet somehow still felt fit to include ‘Alcohol’ in the title of the post. They also equate alcohol consumption of any kind as a slippery slope towards the use of cocaine. (Where’d they get that idea!? Damn you Rob Ford)

Further they go on to make the assertion,

“Most of the health and social problems are attributable to the light and moderate users [of alcohol], representing 70% of the population. Health problems include, mental and physical illnesses such as depression, dementia, unstable emotional behaviors, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, various cancers, etc. Social problems include crime, family breakdowns, financial problems, business and educational problems.”

All attributable to “light” use. Can you say gateway drug! Apparently no one told them that our bodies produce alcohol naturally.

Prohibition Propaganda

Canadian Prohibition Propaganda from the Temperance era


The oberservations show that cultures are best able to prevent alcohol abuse when:

  • They view imbibing as a natural, normal part of life.
  • Kids are taught by example how to drink in moderation.  
  • Consumption is encouraged in social or familial settings instead of hidden away with friends
  •  Alcohol is removed from settings where it is equated with signifying ‘manhood’
  • Stigma of drinking as a social epidemic is removed and focus is given to the underlying symptoms that cause persons to abuse alcohol.


Simply put the “Control of Consumption” crowd fails to understand the complexity of drinking behavior, culture and the concept of personal choice. They encourage people to become the thing they hated by not allowing a culture around alcohol to form. 

Intoxication is found most prevalent in cultures that don’t condone drinking.

It is in cultures that hold positive beliefs and expectancies towards imbibing that being DRUNK is not seen as the goal of drinking.

The good news is that drinking cultures change over time with the pressure of globalized economics, popular culture, migration, demographic changes and cultural exchanges. What hopefully will follow along with all the great beer, wine and spirits that are ever more widely available will be a sea-change in the attitude towards how they are consumed.

Let’s all toast to that!  Preferably with a nice glass of wine at lunch.



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Bartender. Dirt City Bon Vivant. Writer for @CulinaireMag | Contributor to | Partner in @justcocktails |

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