Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Canada the Good: A Short History of Vice since 1500

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Canada the Good: A Short History of Vice since 1500

Article excerpt

Marcel Martel, Canada the Good: A Short History of Vice since 1500 (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014), 196 pp. Paper. $29.99. ISBN 978-1-55458-947-0.

At first glance, the use of the word 'vice' in Martel's title might strike some readers as anachronistic - surely the term, with its Christian connotations and moralistic ring to it is out of fashion in the twenty-first century. And, indeed, Martel begins with a justification of his use of the term. 'I persist in using it', he writes, 'partly because Christianity has had such a profound influence on the definition of proper and unacceptable behaviours, prior to the twentieth century's secularizing processes' (p. 3). The other reason he uses it, though, is that, despite its lineage, it is still an acceptable word that captures the broader range of substances, activities, and lifest yles that he aims to discuss. The major topics with which Martel engages - alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, and sexuality - have moved in and out of legality, and differ widely enough (some being substances, others being activities or inclinations) that vice seems an appropriate catch-all word.

In this short work, Martel surveys the whole of Canadian history to argue that 'when addressing the issues of abortion, alcohol and drug use, gambling, homosexuality, prostitution, and smoking, Canadians have responded in a variety of ways: condemnation, repression, prohibition; but also defiance, resistance, and tolerance' (p. 151). In a short 158 pages, Martel does a fairly good job of outlining the way that the history of northern North America has existed in some measure as the construction of a regulation regime. …

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