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


LCBO Surveillance Technologies







Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis

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The Interdiction Process

Although the LCBO’s original plan to use interdiction to control unwanted drinking - which for the purposes of this section will include Cancellation, Prohibited Orders as well as legal and LCBO interdiction (see Interdiction List History) - began as an internal cancellation mechanism under the Board’s sole control, by the 1930s the interdiction of individuals became a complex affair, interlacing multiple institutions and organizations towards both the identification of individuals and policing of behaviours. The LCBO ultimately made the final decision regarding who would be listed, however, different organizations and groups sought to activate the Board’s disciplinary powers as a means of intervening by altering what they themselves considered to be undesirable behaviours, adding complexity to the issue of understanding how this list was applied.

Legal interdiction was initiated by filed legal action, either criminal or civil, against an individual. Once initiated, a court heard evidence concerning the offence, often using data drawn from Purchase Order Forms or Liquor Permit books as evidence (see file RG 41-1,12-P-2, B200403, file "Provincial Police"). This evidence - onto which the socio-legal discourses of the Criminal Code, Liquor Control Act, and to various degrees temperance discourses, were overlaid - informed judges as to whether the individual facing charges should be legally interdicted. Upon reaching a guilty verdict, and the decision to legally interdict the accused, a judge acting in the case would fill out a “Judge’s Order of Interdiction” and file it with the LCBO. From this point, if the Board saw fit, either an investigation would be initiated or an interdiction or “Board Order” of interdiction would be sent to the individual in question, the local LCBO stores, local breweries, local authorities and local policing organizations. The LCBO also added the individual’s name to the complete Interdiction List, which was circulated on a regular basis to all liquor selling establishments across the province. Between 1927 and 1951 over 530 individuals were legally interdicted by means of judge’s orders (Annual Reports of the LCBO 1927-1951).

In almost all cases a judge’s order meant an automatic addition to the list, while in rare cases the LCBO did overturn rulings and decided not to interdict. Between 1927 and 1952, the final year that the LCBO published its interdiction data, it decided to alter or overturn the interdiction orders of nearly 7,000 individuals (Annual Reports of the LCBO 1927-1952; Judges Orders of Interdiction 1927-1975). The LCBO was, in this sense, a law unto itself or, less dramatically, an institution that could use the legal system to reinforce its prerogatives, one of which included rejecting legal recommendations.

Non-judicial interdiction was also played out through Board action; however, it was initiated by different means. As described in the Purchase Process Section, the LCBO charged its local vendors with the task of reviewing purchases, scrutinizing Liquor Permits and double checking purchase slips. How vendors reacted to these situations were highly mediated by the LCBO’s Vendor Handbooks and Circulars, which dictated the process of Purchase Order Form review, Permit Book review, permittee assessment, stamping and Head Office notification, in addition to repeatedly stressing that staff were to act in order to keep liquor from those who abused it, those who purchased more than their financial means would allow, those who were likely to be supplying bootleggers, those under the age of 21, those who were legally interdicted or prohibited under any provincial or federal statue, as well as those who had their permits cancelled (LCBO Circular 829, 1929; LCBO Circular 1601, 1934).

In addition to this LCBO Head Office was also made aware of all convictions under the Liquor Control Act as well as relevant Criminal Code violations by means of letters sent to it by court officials and reports by police (Lang and McNeely 1963: 4). In these cases Board policy made interdiction virtually automatic, and this type of order accounted for more than half of interdictions issued before 1947.

Once alerted by local vendors or other staff, Head Office would activate its investigators who would then draw information about a certain individual from a wide variety of sources and report findings to the Board’s Permit Department. Specifically, early Board investigations focused on employment, finances and personal information; further, records of interdiction investigations show information gathered from policing organizations, family members, employers, bankers, clergy neighbours as well as a wide variety of other sources (RG 36-13). As the Board reported in 1928:

many hundreds of interviews have contributed wholesomely to the checking of excess. Constantly improving ‘team work’ throughout our organization has resulted, with salutary effect, and we are glad to believe it is recognized as a rule by those affected that these measures are prompted not by caprice but by the desire to assist the good working of the law through inculcating moderation and good sense on the part of permittees. It is desired that the public be made aware of the prominence that is being given to the work thus initiated and hence the Board gratefully acknowledges the assistance of those who, whether they are in sympathy with the Act or not, nevertheless place the good of those requiring assistance above all other considerations and have given the Board the intimate details which outside of the family itself, can only be known to the clergyman and the social worker. As a result of this co-operation, the number of cancellations of permits has increased rapidly (Annual Report of the LCBO 1927-1928, 1929: 10).

Like those who were legally interdicted, individuals the Permit Department felt were abusing their permit privilege based on the investigation data were issued Interdiction Orders by registered mail, in addition to being added to the Interdiction List.

In addition to its own internal analysis, the Board used its Interdiction List as a means of appeasing the bourgeois social and political assumptions surrounding drinking, embodied within moderationist and teetotaller arguments, by opening its doors to public and institutional requests for interdicting individuals. In an article in the Ottawa Journal concerning go

if drunkards refuse to be good, the Government officials just grip them in the most convenient place and sit them down very hard. And so any person can go to the justice of the peace and file an affidavit that a certain person is injuring his health, misspending his means or interfering with the peace and happiness of his family. Upon enquiry, the Justice of the Peace Interdicts the man or woman, notice of which is duly posted in beer parlors and all places vending liquor. If the Interdicted person enters one of these premises he is immediately apprehended and brought before the Justice of the Peace to be dealt with according to law. If anyone gives liquor to an interdicted person, the penalty for the first offence from one to three months imprisonment without option for fine, and for second or subsequent offence from four to twelve months imprisonment without the option for fine (Willison 1924).

vernment control and interdiction, it was explained how members of the general public played a key role in ensuring that moral standards concerning liquor were upheld, noting:

Although the “immediateness” of interdicted individual’s identification and apprehension explained above represented an ideal, in reality interdiction was slightly more complex in its application; still, the spirit of community involvement concerning the policing of alcohol consumption through interdiction acted as a central element within the LCBO’s control system. Specifically, members of the general public could, and did, write to the Board and request that an investigation be undertaken about the drinking of a particular individual (Annual Report of the LCBO 1937-1938, 1939: 12). To perform this work the Board employed a “Special Staff” which “investigat[ed] matters of a social nature involving the consumption of alcoholic beverages,” but in remote and lightly populated regions of the province this task fell to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) (Annual Report of the LCBO 1940-1941, 1942: 12). Initially the LCBO made its decisions regarding interdiction based on purchases and listed employment information, yet in the Board’s later years interdiction investigations became more formalized; while by the time the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario (LLBO) took over the responsibilities of the list in 1975, investigations were required to include information pertaining to whether an individual:

(1) Misspends, wastes or lessens his estate, by failing to meet, (a) rent, mortgage payments, bills, debts or maintain his/her place of business, (b) employment responsibilities (e.g. chronic absenteeism), (c) to provide food and clothing for self and/or family, (d) to provide the basic essentials to maintain a reasonable living for self and/or family. (2) Injures his health, (a) Doctor’s recommendation, (b) whether or not hospitalized, (c) history of illness. (3) Interrupts the peace and happiness of his family, (a) police calls to residence, (b) list charges and court convictions, (c) history of drinking habits and amount of consumption (daily, weekly), (d) violent action while under the influence, (e) obscene or abusive language, (f) marriage breakdown or family disturbances, (g) child abuse or any physical assault upon other persons. (4) Other contact with Community of Social Service Agencies, (a) has subject been in contact with Alcoholics Anonymous, Counselors, Children’s Aid Society, Welfare Agencies, Salvation Army, Alcohol and Drug Addiction Centers, Detoxification Centers, Mental Institutions, if so, explain briefly of attach their report. (5) Opinion of Investigator, (a) recommendation for Order of Interdiction and state reason, (b) if a court recommendation is made, give location of court and name of Judge. (6) Remarks, (a) where only one person is interviewed (e.g. wife of the individual) supportive evidence is required to corroborate the complaint: police report, doctor’s recommendation, etc (b) the investigator must advise the person being interviewed that the Liquor Licence Act permits a hearing to determine if there is sufficient justification to warrant placing a person on the interdicted list. The source of the complaint will not be confidential (c) all interviews are to be conducted personally, not via telephone (d) ensure that given and surnames are spelled properly, mailing address is correct and the age of dependants are listed, (e) supply a list of the licenced premises and retail store outlets that may be frequented by the subject (L.C.B.O. Stores, Brewers’ Retail, Wineries, Hotels, Taverns and Public Houses) (LLBO Form LLB-244, RG 36-13, box 1D, file # 332).

An average of 3,352 of these investigations were reported annually by the LCBO between the years of 1927 and 1933, peaking at over 8,000 in the 1929-1930 fiscal year (Annual Reports of the LCBO 1927-1933).

Once the Board’s Interdiction List became formalized in the 1930s, listing, although initiated by different applicants, followed a standardized process. Under this system, individuals were listed based on the interactions of various levels of LCBO employees as well as inter-organizational cooperation concerning the flow of surveillance data.

Interdiction process

Specifically, the process of interdiction was initiated by an application submitted to the LCBO or generated internally and submitted to the Permit Department. Applications were then reviewed by Head Office, and if found to warrant investigation, were forwarded to local LCBO investigators. From there, local investigators conducted a series of interviews with individuals close to the person under review for interdiction in order to develop an understanding of their drinking and private lives. Investigators would submit their reports to Head Office, and a final decision taken regarding disciplinary action. At this point, Head Office could choose from a range of disciplinary actions – no action, warning letter, a partial order which limited consumption, a partial order which limited purchases from licenced establishments (home consumption only), a partial order which limited purchases from LCBO stores (no home consumption), a full order of interdiction that lasted for a stipulated period, and finally a full board order of interdiction which lasted indefinitely until revoked.

Upon reaching a decision to issue an Interdiction Order the Board would forward copies of the order itself to the listed individual, local LCBO and brewery stores, local licenced establishments (authorities) as well as to the local municipality and policing agencies. Complete lists bearing all the names of those interdicted were sent out monthly (1927-1932) and later weekly (1932-1975) to all stores, breweries, all licenced authorities, all policing organizations in the province and all municipalities (Regulations of the LCBO 1927; LCBO Circular 1363, 1932; LCBO Handbook 1951: 23).

The Board relied most heavily upon full Interdiction Orders that lasted a stipulated period – for the most part (98%) lasting 12 months. Although this remains constant as the most often used disciplinary action comparisons between 1927-1962 and remaining 1953-1975 data show a movement by the Board away from partial orders and a reliance on full orders.

LCBO disciplinary action


<< The Interdiction Process

Unequal Application of Interdiction (1953-1975)
Social Sorting and the LCBO

Interdiction List History
The LCBO’s Cancellation List 1927–36

The Prohibited List 1929–65
Preventative Cancellations 1930–75
The Interdiction List (LCBO Action) 1965–75
The Identification of Listed Individuals 1927–75
Assessment and Analysis of Listed Individuals >>