Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XXX
Prohibition in the United States and rumrunning in Canada--"Lean up against the counter and make a gurgling sigh."

MOST Canadians born later than, say, 1910 are under the impression that their country came almost wholly unscathed through the social, moral, and political ordeal of prohibition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Canada did escape the great consolidated headache of a Volstead Act, but the headache it took piecemeal was nevertheless a memorable one.

Except to collect sales and excise taxes and duties Ottawa stayed largely clear of the liquor traffic during the war and postwar years. The provinces were left to write their own regulations--and in many cases to rewrite them and then rewrite them again. Prohibition, semi-prohibition, and the open bar raced back and forth through the statute books of the nine provinces like the lights on a busy switchboard, but there was never any time after 1921 when at least two or three of the provinces weren't at least damp. And even in those that were bone-dry there were almost invariably warehouses stacked to the eaves with beverages which, although forbidden to local consumers, it was perfectly legal to export. Ontario and Quebec both denied booze to their own citizens but allowed some of the world's largest distilleries and breweries to go on making it as fast as they could.

Thus, to anyone interested in assuaging the sudden thirst of a hundred million Americans, Canada was the promised land, a smuggler's paradise--an Andorra with a border four thousand miles long, and an undefended border at that. At each end lay enough open water to float a thousand Majorcas.

The last weepy pre-Volstead drunk had not finished his last preVolstead highball before the first relief shipments were on the way.

-253-

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