The temperance movement can be traced to the 19th century, where it was believed that economic success could be achieved with self-restraint.  An obvious obstacle to said success was alcohol, as alcohol at the time was blamed for growing poverty and crime.  As the temperance movement gained more momentum, it changed from a personal decision to organized groups against the consumption of liquor.  This change was clear in the founding of two of the more influential groups on prohibition in Canada, The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (founded in 1874) and the Dominion Alliance for the Total Suppression of Alcohol Traffic (formed in 1875).  The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, or WCTU, had the belief that alcohol was responsible for many of society’s shortcomings, including unemployment, disease and poverty among others.  The peak of the WCTU’s achievements was prohibition, as the organization saw a decline after nationalization had been put in place.  The Dominion Alliance for the Total Suppression of Alcohol Traffic, originally named the Dominion Prohibitory Council, was the joining of hundreds of religious groups across Canada to form one body against prohibition.  Their principles were:
  • That it is not the government’s right to protect or sanction anything that increases crime, corrupts society, or is unhealthy for people
  • That the sale of liquor as a common beverage is detrimental to the welfare of society
  • That the history of liquor laws indicate that it is impossible to regulate such a system
  • That no economic gain from the sale of alcohol should justify the selling of alcohol
  • That prohibition complies with both national liberty and commerce
  • That prohibition of liquor would greatly develop society
  • That citizens should ignore political party allegiance to vote for prohibition
The groups that form the Dominion Alliance were predominantly English and Protestant, and even discouraged Catholic and French groups.  These Catholic and French religious groups saw prohibition as an extreme type of temperance, whereas they looked to moderate the sale of alcohol through the government.  The Dominion Alliance tried to justify prohibition as a patriotic measure, campaigning this through each province during WWI.  This campaign went over well with the general public because of English Canadians patriotism flaring during the war.  The English-French divide was very evident in referendums on prohibition, as the mainly English populated provinces voted for prohibition, and the mainly French Quebec, was the sole province in Canada to never have total prohibition.