Our latest escape game Where Dark Things Dwell at Black Creek Pioneer Village is played in an imagined world of the occult with actors…
But did you know that until last month there was a law prohibiting pretend witchcraft and fortune-telling still on the statute books in Canada?
This oddity – Section 365 of the Criminal Code of Canada – is thought to be a descendant of Medieval English law which at the time sentenced witches to a hideously gruesome death of burning at the stake. Flash forward 600 years, and these laws were clearly out of context, so why did they remain for so long?
The law was actually enacted in 1892, not as a means of persecuting witches, but in order to ensure that fraudsters weren’t able to use witchcraft as an excuse.
This might sound like an odd concept, but it’s actually happened – the last time someone was prosecuted under Section 365 was in 2012! After convincing an elderly woman that her illnesses were the result of a curse, and that he as a practitioner of magic could lift the curse for a fee, a Mississauga man was charged with pretending to practice witchcraft as well as several fraud charges. Ultimately all charges were dropped when the accused returned all the money.
In fact, the charge of “pretending to practice witchcraft” has been dropped the last several times it was enacted. Since any charges of false witchery can be prosecuted as fraud anyway, the Section 365 is now being removed from the Criminal Code.
Also being removed are prohibitions against the innocuous sounding “printing, distributing, and possessing crime comics” and the rather more dubious “advertising of a reward for the return of stolen property with ‘no questions asked’”. Challenging someone to a duel is also no longer illegal…
…but, before you ask – no of course this law doesn’t mean that duels are actually legal. As with deceptive witchcraft now being prosecuted as fraud, an actual duel would now be processed under alternative legislation.
Image credit: lithograph depicting the Polemical Duel between Lady Quotidienne and Sir Journal de Paris in 1821 – courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.