- Regulation and the History of Psychoactive Substances in Canada
In 1967, Minister of Justice Pierre Trudeau made the now famous announcement, “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” (Globe and Mail 22 December 1967, 1). Made at a time when people were increasingly concerned with issues of human rights and questioning the role of the state in enforcing morality, Trudeau’s statement and subsequent revision of the Criminal Code in 1969 seemed to symbolize a new era of government withdrawal from “private” matters. Certainly, not all Canadians supported these changes. On the campaign trail in 1968, Robert Stanfield opposed the Criminal Code reforms and stated that a Conservative government would not introduce legislation on abortion and homosexuality, matters that he reportedly recognized “troubled the conscience of a good many Canadians” (Simcoe Reformer 1968, 2). Meanwhile, some members of the Quebec Créditistes proposed an amendment that would restrict abortion to hospitals in metropolitan centres, reasoning that in small towns “everybody knows everybody else” (Heald 1969, 1). Nevertheless, many forms of behaviour would gradually fall outside the realm of legislative and judicial regulation, such as the use of birth control and same-sex relations.
Efforts to enhance personal rights and liberties would continue in the following decades, including, most recently, steps to decriminalize marijuana [End Page 227] use. At the same time, however, some activities that could be labelled “private” have become increasingly restricted, most notably cigarette smoking, thereby suggesting that the state has not entirely abandoned its role as moral arbiter of the nation. As well, conduct continues to be policed through more insipid measures, including police raids on gay bathhouses, and social movements still endeavour to remake individual subjectivities. Indeed, a number of academics argue that contemporary North American and European societies are distinguished by a new form of temperance and moral control that seeks to regulate private behaviour by advocating, for example, “good health” and the prevention of addiction. According to David Wagner, society is characterized by an “obsession with private issues, and social movements aimed at individuals and groups who are considered to be ‘unhealthy’” (1987, 540). Furthermore, while the overt references to Christian doctrine that permeated early efforts to control behaviour have diminished, notions of morality have not disappeared from regulatory discourses. Rather, older arguments for regulation have been refashioned into a seemingly secular and “scientific” language that exhorts self-improvement, personal success, and physical and mental well-being (Ruonovaara 1997, 292).
Moralized political discussions have not only persisted, but have become even more pronounced and visible in recent years. Alan Hunt, one of the leading theorists in the field, maintains that “Not only is there a series of persisting traditional moral problems, often with new names, which continue to occupy political and legislative attention . . . but a wider and more diverse range of social issues is contested in strongly moralised terms” (1999, 2). That measures aimed at modifying individual behaviour and morality continue to figure prominently in contemporary society underscores the importance of understanding the historical precedents of modern social and state regulation. In Canada, a rich body of literature now exists that focusses on the interrelated themes of disciplinary regimes, suppression versus regulation, governance of the self, and the construction of vice. Pioneering scholars of moral regulation in Canada include Karen Dubinsky, Steven Maynard...