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Canada the Good

A Short History of Vice since 1500


Publication Year: 2014

To invest in vice can be a sound financial decision, but despite the lure of healthy profits, individuals and mutual funds have been reluctant to invest in this type of stock. After all, who would take pride in supporting the tobacco industry, knowing it sells a deadly product? And what social responsibilities do investors bear with respect to compulsive gamblers who have lost so much money that suicide becomes an attractive option?

Canada the Good considers more than five hundred years of debates and regulation that have conditioned Canadians’ attitudes towards certain vices. Early European settlers implemented a Christian moral order that regulated sexual behaviour, gambling, and drinking. Later, some transgressions were diagnosed as health issues that required treatment. Those who refused the label of illness argued that behaviours formerly deemed as vices were within the range of normal human behaviour.

This historical synthesis demonstrates how moral regulation has changed over time, how it has shaped Canadians’ lives, why some debates have almost disappeared and others persist, and why some individuals and groups have felt empowered to tackle collective social issues. Against the background of the evolution of the state, the enlargement of the body politic, and mounting forays into court activism, the author illustrates the complexity over time of various forms of social regulation and the control of vice.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-8

Few people would refer to compulsive gambling, excessive drinking, and drug or sex addiction as vice. On the contrary, many believe that the inability to control drinking, drug taking, or gambling is a symptom of a disease rather than evidence of lack of self-control or of a morally weak character. However, not that long ago, these behaviours were labelled as vices, demonstrating an individual’s inability to control him or herself...

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Chapter 1: Different Worlds, Different Values: Encounters from 1500 to 1700

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pp. 9-24

"As soon as [the Aboriginals] saw us they began to run away, making signs to us that they had come to barter with us; and held up some skins of small value, with which they clothe themselves.”1 When Jacques Cartier first met with Aboriginals in the Gaspé area on July 7, 1534, he extended a process, which had begun several decades prior to his arrival, of European interaction with First Nations on the East Coast of North America. In the course of noting in his travel diary that Aboriginals brought him small gifts, he alluded to their previous encounters with Europeans, such as the Basques, who fished along the Atlantic coast and returned home after a very profitable catch...

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Chapter 2: In the Name of God, the King, and the Settlers: Regulating Behaviour during the Colonial Era (1700–1850)

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pp. 25-48

The visit of Peter Kalm caught the attention of many in New France in 1749. Settlers, Roman Catholic Church officials, and the Governor General and the Intendant, who were the royal representatives in the colony, were eager to meet with the Swedish botanist and traveller. Kalm had already sojourned in the British colonies for a year, before spending the summer in New France. Upon his return to Sweden, he published a report of his travels...

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Chapter 3: Triumphs: Vices in Retreat, 1850–1920

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pp. 49-90

In her autobiography, Letitia Youmans, an emblematic figure of the temperance movement, relates the story of a family devastated by alcohol use. The father, who had the legal obligation of providing for his family, squandered much of his income on alcohol. He even brought bottles home for consumption on Sundays. His wife objected to having alcoholic beverages in the family home. Although her husband did not actually drink in the house, he did it “in the barn in winter, and in the grass in summer.”...

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Chapter 4: No Longer Vices: Call Them Health Issues, 1920 to the Present

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pp. 91-150

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a female sex worker from the Maritimes explained her job to university researchers: “If you’re bringing in $1,000 a night, you’re off welfare and you’re off their back. Your kids got a babysitter; your kids got food; your kids got clothes, and your kids got love.”1 As a sex worker, she made much more money than she would if she worked at a “respectable” nine-to-five job where she would earn the minimum wage or barely above it. At the same time, her work—though consistently condemned by large segments of society—allowed her to be a responsible parent, which society has always valued...

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pp. 151-158

Through this exploration of the history of vice we have seen how Canadians have navigated living together in an increasingly diverse society. We have also gauged the extent of their ability to govern the conduct of others, whether through institutions of church and state, or collectively, in the context of civil society. When addressing the issues of abortion, alcohol and drug use, gambling, homosexuality, prostitution, and smoking, Canadians have responded in a variety of ways: condemnation, repression, prohibition; but also defiance, resistance, and tolerance. These responses have varied through time and from region to region, depending on the issues and the people involved...


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pp. 159-176


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pp. 177-186


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pp. 187-189

E-ISBN-13: 9781554589487
E-ISBN-10: 1554589487
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554589470

Page Count: 196
Illustrations: 22 b/w illus., 2 tables
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 862544785
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Canada the Good

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Social control--Canada--History.
  • Vice control--Canada--History.
  • Canada--Social conditions--History.
  • Canada--Moral conditions--History.
  • Vice--History.
  • Vices--History.
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