Thursday, June 8, 2017

Canada to Kill "Zombie Laws"

Just like the United States, Canada has some weird laws that are profoundly out of date. Canadian legislators are planning to do something about that, with a push to kill so-called "zombie laws." One of these is a law against "pretending to practice witchcraft." Back in 2009, I covered a case in which the law was used to prosecute a confidence artist running a scam. Also to be repealed are laws against dueling and publishing crime comics.

But once the Liberal government’s updates and changes to the code pass through Parliament, Canadians across the land will be free to challenge whomever they wish to a duel, pretend to practise witchcraft — or even publish crime comics (the legacy of a moral panic in the 1950s).

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on Tuesday announced some “obsolete” and “redundant” Criminal Code provisions the Liberals intend to remove.

This is part of a broader suite of amendments to the code Wilson-Raybould said will strengthen sexual assault provisions and ensure every new government bill tabled in the House of Commons is accompanied by a “Charter statement” laying out effects the new bill could have on Charter rights.

Canada’s Criminal Code – the law setting out most of the country’s criminal offences – was first enacted in 1892, when the country, its citizens and their customs were, well, really different than now.

To be clear, fraud will still be illegal in Canada. There just won't be a separate witchcraft-specific law against it. Likewise, it will still be illegal to shoot at someone or kill them in a duel. The point is that these old statutes are weird special cases that are already covered under existing, functional laws. As for the prohibition on crime comics, that one is just pointless censorship and its repeal won't hurt anyone one way or another. I'm not sure that it's even enforced - you can get comics in Canada, right?

Simplifying the penal code helps everybody here, except maybe prosecutors who rely on its complexity to get more convictions. Repealing the "pretending to practice witchcraft" law also closes the door to possible religious persecution. Defrauding someone is defrauding them, full stop. There's nothing about magick or witchcraft that warrants special treatment.

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