OF PROHIBITION LAWS,
1917–24: LEGITIMATION CRISIS
The influx of immigrants from central and eastern Europe in the first quarter of the twentieth century had profound effects on police activi ties in the provinces. At the same time, the prohibition movement and the police enforcement of law associated with it also played a significant role in the development of both the provincial police forces. The prohi bition movement, as part of the nation-building process,1 attempted to regulate and reshape moral values and the conduct of not just foreign immigrants, but also subordinate groups of Canadians. The movement attempted to inculcate in the population the sober and hardworking ide als that middle-class Anglo-Canadians valued. For such a purpose, the prohibitionists actively made use of the legal process, including the po lice, to impose “official” Canadian virtues on the lower segments of the population. Through this movement, the Canadian state presented itself as a neutral participant. Nevertheless, the police, as state employees, were deeply involved because they were mandated to enforce what was essen tially moralistic legislation.2 The enforcement resulted in what Habermas calls a “legitimation crisis.” In this chapter, we attempt to answer the questions as to how the police enforcement of prohibition laws and the resulting public attitude towards the laws and their enforcement affected police legitimacy and how the police legitimation crisis affected other areas of police activities.
Liquor problems had haunted politicians in both the Dominion and lo cal governments even before the formation of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. One of the Dominion government’s purposes in creating the North-West Mounted Police in 1873 was to eliminate the whisky trade in the North-West Territories. It was believed that the drinking habits of the native population produced many undesirable results, including crime