Canada Temperance Act

The Canada Temperance Act[1] (French: Loi de tempérance du Canada),[lower-alpha 1] also known as the Scott Act,[lower-alpha 2] was an Act of the Parliament of Canada passed in 1878, which provided for a national framework for municipalities to opt in by plebiscite to a scheme of prohibition. It was repealed in 1984.

Canada Temperance Act
Parliament of Canada
CitationS.C. 1878, c. 16
Royal assent10 May 1878
Status: Repealed

Legislative history

Pre-Confederation colonial legislation

Temperance legislation of general application had been enacted by the various colonies as early as 1855, when New Brunswick implemented total prohibition to mixed success.[2] Others, beginning with the Province of Canada on passage of the Dunkin Act in 1864,[lower-alpha 3] opted to allow local municipalities to implement temperance upon an approval by plebiscite.[3][lower-alpha 4]


The provinces continued to enact temperance legislation after the establishment of Canadian Confederation in 1867. Ontario passed the Crooks Act[lower-alpha 5] in 1876 to provide for the limiting of licences granted by municipal councils in areas not otherwise subject to the Dunkin Act.[7] The Parliament of Canada shortly followed afterwards with the passage of the Scott Act, which offered local option within a national scheme,[8] followed in 1883 by the McCarthy Act[lower-alpha 6] and its national licensing system.[8][lower-alpha 7]

In 1917, provision was made to suspend the operation of the Act where provincial temperance legislation was determined to be as restrictive in application.[11]

Application of Act

The Act was brought into effect in 17 municipalities:

Implementation of Canada Temperance Act[12]
 New Brunswick 1879 Albert County
Carleton County
Kings County
Queens County
York County
1880 Northumberland County
Westmorland County
 Manitoba 1880 Electoral District of Marquette
1881 Electoral District of Lisgar
 Nova Scotia 1881 Digby
1884 Yarmouth
1885 Guysborough
 Quebec 1913 Thetford Mines
 Ontario 1913 District of Manitoulin
1914 Huron County
Perth County (excluding Stratford)[13]
1915 Peel County

The Act was the subject of several constitutional challenges, many of which were of major importance in developing the jurisprudence underlying Canadian federalism:

When prohibition in Ontario was relaxed in 1927, a reference question to the Supreme Court of Canada resulted in the 1935 finding that the 1917 determinations no longer applied in the counties of Perth, Huron and Peel.[24] A subsequent reference question by the Province of Ontario resulted in a declaration that the Canada Temperance Act was unconstitutional,[12] but this was subsequently reversed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1946 in Ontario v. Canada Temperance Federation.[25] Manitoulin and Peel would later hold plebiscites that revoked the application of the Act in December 1951,[26] while Huron and Perththe last jurisdictions where the Act applied in Canada would not do so until November 1959.[27][28]


The Act remained on the statute books until its repeal in 1984.[29]

See also

Further reading

  • Brock, Kathy Lenore (1982). Sacred Boundaries: Local Option Laws in Ontario (PDF) (M.A.). McMaster University.
  • Fish, Morris J. (2011). "The Effect of Alcohol on the Canadian Constitution ... Seriously" (PDF). McGill LJ. McGill Law Journal. 57 (1): 189–209. doi:10.7202/1006421ar. ISSN 1920-6356.

Notes and references


  1. originally enacted as Acte de tempérance du Canada
  2. named after its sponsor Sir Richard William Scott
  3. named after its sponsor Christopher Dunkin
  4. The Act proved to be problematic in its operation following the division of the Province into Ontario and Quebec. In Ex parte O'Neill, RJQ 24 SC 304,[4] it was held that the Legislative Assembly of Quebec was unable to repeal the Dunkin Act, but it could pass a concurrent statute for regulating liquor traffic within the Province.[5] It was also later held that the Parliament of Canada could not repeal that Act with respect only to Ontario.[6]
  5. named after its sponsor Adam Crooks
  6. named after its sponsor Dalton McCarthy
  7. The Liquor License Act, 1883, S.C. 1883, c. 30 , subsequently declared unconstitutional in the McCarthy Act Reference.[9][10]


  1. The Canada Temperance Act, 1878, S.C. 1878, c. 16
  2. Fish 2011, p. 197.
  3. The Temperance Act of 1864, S.Prov.C. 1864, c. 18
  4. Lefroy, Augustus Henry Frazer (1918). A short treatise on Canadian constitutional law. Toronto: The Carswell Company. p. 189.
  5. Lefroy, Augustus Henry Frazer (1913). Canada's Federal System. Toronto: The Carswell Company. pp. 162–163.
  6. The Attorney General for Ontario v The Attorney General for the Dominion of Canada, and the Distillers and Brewers’ Association of Ontario (The "Local Prohibition Case") [1896] UKPC 20, [1896] AC 348 (9 May 1896), P.C. (on appeal from Canada)
  7. An Act to amend the Law respecting the sale of Fermented and Spirituous Liquors, S.O. 1875-76, c. 26
  8. Fish 2011, p. 198.
  9. Fish 2011, p. 203.
  10. Risk, R.C.B. (1990). "Canadian Courts under the Influence". University of Toronto Law Journal. 40 (4): 687–737. JSTOR 825682. at 715-721
  11. An Act to amend an Act in aid of Provincial Legislation prohibiting or restricting the sale or use of Intoxicating Liquors, S.C. 1917, c. 30, s. 2
  12. Re Canada Temperance Act 1939 CanLII 58, [1939] OR 570; [1939] 4 DLR 14; 72 CCC 145 (26 September 1939), Court of Appeal (Ontario, Canada)
  13. Brock 1982, p. 34.
  14. Severn v The Queen 1878 CanLII 29, [1878] 2 SCR 70, 1 Cart 414 (28 January 1878)
  15. Fish 2011, p. 200.
  16. City of Fredericton v The Queen 1880 CanLII 28, [1880] 3 SCR 505, 2 Cart 27 (13 April 1880)
  17. Fish 2011, p. 201.
  18. Charles Russell v The Queen [1882] UKPC 33, [1882] 7 App Cas 829, 8 CRAC 502 (23 June 1882), P.C. (on appeal from New Brunswick)
  19. Fish 2011, pp. 201-202.
  20. Hodge v The Queen [1883] UKPC 59, [1883] 9 AC 117 (15 December 1883), P.C. (on appeal from Ontario)
  21. Fish 2011, pp. 202-203.
  22. The Attorney General for Ontario v The Attorney General for the Dominion of Canada, and the Distillers and Brewers’ Association of Ontario [1896] UKPC 20, [1896] AC 348 (9 May 1896), P.C. (on appeal from Canada)
  23. Fish 2011, pp. 203-204.
  24. Reference re Canada Temperance Act 1935 CanLII 38, [1935] SCR 494 (28 June 1935)
  25. The Attorney-General of Ontario and others v The Canada Temperance Federation [1946] UKPC 2, [1946] A.C. 193 (21 January 1946), P.C. (on appeal from Ontario)
  26. "A Wet Win?". The Acton Free Press. Acton, Ontario. 6 December 1951. p. 2.
  27. French-Gibson, Elizabeth (2017). "Prohibition in Huron County: What Life was like in the 'Dry' Years" (PDF). Huron-Perth Boomers. 2 (2). Goderich, Ontario. pp. 12–14.
  28. "Pieces of the Past: The Arlington Hotel in Listowel". The Listowel Banner. Listowel, Ontario. January 31, 2018.
  29. Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1984, S.C. 1984, c. 40, s. 69
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