CBC Digital Archives

Alcohol: Social drinking and the family

It's not just the water that flows freely in Canada. Brewing, distilling and wine-making have long thrived here, and not even Prohibition could turn off the taps. Despite tight controls on the purchase and consumption of liquor, Canadians kept on drinking, and laws were gradually relaxed in the 1960s and '70s. Then alcohol's darker side came to light: teen drinking, drunk driving, fetal alcohol syndrome and a terrible toll on aboriginal communities. CBC Digital Archives traces Canada's changing relationship with the bottle.

When parents drink in front of their children, will it become a case of "monkey see, monkey do?" Or does the sight of mom and dad enjoying a glass of wine, and maybe even sharing a taste, demystify the allure of alcohol? A 1963 edition of the CBC Radio program Citizens' Forum airs viewpoints on both sides of the question.
• Laws governing drinking in public began to liberalize in Canada after the Second World War. Only beer parlours (many segregated between "men only" and "ladies and escorts") had existed before. But new licenses allowed establishments to serve spirits, offer snacks, provide live or recorded entertainment, and serve patrons at the bar - all novelties at the time. • Consumption of alcohol continued to rise in Canada after the war. Through the 1950s the average per capita consumption of beer was just over 50 litres per year, and by 1965 it had reached almost 54 litres.

• In this clip, a caller uses the expression "John Barleycorn." The expression has fallen out of favour, but historian Craig Heron, in his 2003 book Booze: A Distilled History, describes John Barleycorn as "the seductive spirit of companionship and sociability to be found in alcohol." 

Medium: Radio
Program: Citizens' Forum
Broadcast Date: Dec. 10, 1963
Guest(s): Juanita Chambers
Duration: 28:57
Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/webphotographeer

Last updated: February 3, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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