A History of Prohibition in British Columbia
Does drug prohibition work? There are many governments, police forces, jailers and drug testers who say it does. Prohibition is the favoured choice in dealing with intoxicants in the world today. But how well does it stand up to the test of history - in particular, our own history in British Columbia? The province has seen two harsh liquor prohibitions: first on its Native population from 1854 to 1962, and second, on the entire population, during the 1917-1921 period.
Sobering Dilemma examines both, touching on the province’s longtime fondness for alcohol and the social conditions which encouraged toleration of heavy drinking. The prohibition movement reached its peak during the 1916 "Purity election" which combined a provincial election with twin referendums on women’s suffrage and alcohol prohibition. The liquor referendum results were shamelessly manipulated by both sides, but prohibition was finally imposed in October 1917.
Douglas Hamilton has examined the classified files of the Provincial Police at BC Archives and shows how British Columbia’s experiment with prohibition soon degenerated into a hopeless morass of corruption, scandal, favouritism, class conflict, freelance informants, bureaucratic ineptitude, and racism.