We sometimes hear of bizarre laws still on the books. I had always assumed these were tucked away in obscure legislation and never applied. Not so, as many very surprising laws are contained in documents such as the Canadian Criminal Code. Here are some of the most surprising ones.
Those of us who have studied the Criminal Code know how complex it can be. What we may not have noticed is that it contains sections which appear to date from another time and place. This cannot be a product of the Code not having been amended in a while, as it actually is subject to constant revisions and amendments. Apparently, Parliament thinks these provisions still serve a purpose.
For instance, section 371 prohibits using a false name on a telegram or cablegram, for those of us who still refuse to use email. Maximum of five years imprisonment. I do not know what a cablegram is.
It is illegal to provoke someone into duelling according to section 71. Interestingly, Tremeear’s Criminal Code Commentary specifies that although provoking someone to enter into a duel is illegal, the act of actually duelling is not.
The offence of corrupting morals at section 163 not only prohibits using a phonographic record to distribute obscene material, for those of you who still use 8-tracks, but also prohibits distribution of a “crime comic” – that is, a magazine or periodical that depicts pictorially the commission of crimes, real or fictitious. In other words, Sherlock Holmes comics are not ok, Archies are. Section 163 also makes it an offence to “advertise instructions, medicine, drug or article intended or represented as a method for restoring sexual virility or curing venereal diseases or disease of the generative organs”.
Another provision which just goes to show how backward the Code is can be found at section 365, which makes it illegal to “fraudulently” exercise any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, or to tell fortunes, or pretend from his skill in occult science to discover something that has been stolen or lost. Somewhat surprisingly, the Supreme Court considered this provision as recently as 1987, convicting Lucette Labrosse of deceiving people into thinking she could predict the future.
It is also prohibited to sell “defective stores” to the Queen, per section 418. Meaning that if you are in the business of selling fake Louis Vuitton purses, be careful who you market them to, or you risk 14 years in prison. Speaking of the Queen, you cannot play a prank on her or try to scare her in any way, per section 49.
According to section 364, you may also not “pretend to have baggage” in order to fraudulently obtain food or beverage. I assume this provision was born out of a situation in which a person tried to sneak into a hotel buffet by pretending he was a patron of the hotel.
And in typical Canadian style: Section 263 of the Criminal Code makes it illegal for a person to not guard a hole he made in ice and prevent others from accidentally falling into it.
Finally, you should also know that any crime committed on a space station is punishable under the Criminal Code, even though not technically within the territory of Canada (section 7).
Laws other than the Criminal Code similarly contain surprising provisions. Until a few years ago when it was repealed, the Quebec Bees Act aimed to protect bees as well as protect citizens from bees. For instance, section 15 prohibited spraying a fruit tree with poison if that tree was in bloom. Selling or exchanging female bees without a permit was also illegal.
Also in Quebec, the Act respecting the Artificial Inducement of Rain makes it illegal to artificially induce rain, unless authorized by the government.
According to the National Parks of Canada Domestic Animals Regulations, which apply to preserve the safety of humans and animals brought into parks around the country, you may not bring your llama to the park without first obtaining a permit to do so. No need for a permit to walk your dog or cat in a park. The fact that llamas are the subject of these regulations, alongside animals more commonly found in parks, such as dogs, cats and horses, clearly refers to a specific incident.
Finally, you may want to know that you can only use loonies to pay an amount up to $25 and you may only use pennies to pay an amount up to 25¢, according to the federal Currency Act.