What are the strangest sections of the Criminal Code?


2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. It also marks the advent of several important legislative changes, such as the introduction of a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Finally, it marks the 125th anniversary of our Canadian Criminal Code, making it one of the oldest pieces of legislation in Canada. Indeed, it was in 1892 that Canadian parliamentarians made the decision to codify criminal offences within a single document.

Over the years, many offences were created by the authorities in power and then codified by our elected officials. Here are some outdated offences still present in our Criminal Code.

Strange section of Criminal Code No. 1: Practicing Magic

Article 365: Every one who fraudulently

  1. pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,
  2. undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or
  3. pretends from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Rest assured, this provision of the Criminal Code only applies to sorcerer’s apprentices who seek to enrich themselves fraudulently by invoking their “magic”. So, you can continue to duel with wands bought during your holidays at Universal Studio, unless….

Strange section of Criminal Code No. 2: Asking someone to duel

Article 71 : Every one who

  1. challenges or attempts by any means to provoke another person to fight a duel,
  2. attempts to provoke a person to challenge another person to fight a duel, or
  3. accepts a challenge to fight a duel,

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

This provision says a lot about the age of our Criminal Code. This article takes us back a long way to a time when men used to duel for all sorts of reasons.

Strange section of Criminal Code No. 3: Oyster theft

Although strange, you can be charged with theft of an oyster. Oyster theft combines two sections of the Criminal Code. As a result, the description of the possession of oysters and oyster beds is codified in section 323 and theft in section 334 of the Criminal Code. This provision comes from a time when oyster fishermen were victims of vandals who snatched these marine mollusks for their pearls.

Strange section of Criminal Code No. 4: Anal intercourse

The legalization of same-sex marriage on June 28, 2005 failed to remove the offence of anal intercourse from our Criminal Code.

159 (1) Every person who engages in an act of anal intercourse is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Canada is recognized as one of the most welcoming and progressive countries in the world for the LGBT community. The courts across the country have recognized this and many have found that this provision of the Criminal Code violates the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

In 2017, the Trudeau government announced its decision to clean up this old Code. As a result, several provisions that no longer have any reason to exist, either because they are obsolete or unconstitutional, will be removed with Bill C-39, proposed by the Minister of Justice of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Beyond the strange features of the Criminal Code

Although strange, these articles of law are in a sense remnants of our past. Gradually, and with the introduction of new bills, the Criminal Code is being modernized. For more information or if you would like to obtain the advice of a lawyer, contact Montreal Criminal Lawyers.



PELLETIER, Gérard, “Le Code criminel canadien, 1892-1939 : Le contrôle des armes à feu”, Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies[Online], Vol. 6, n°2 | 2002, online February 25, 2009, accessed July 19, 2017. URL: http://chs.revues.org/414; DOI: 10.4000/chs.414.

DUGAY, Nicolas, Mariage gai : le Parlement dit oui, Radio-Canada June 2005. [Online] July 19, 2017. URL link: http://ici.radio canada.ca/news/news/news/200506/29/002-marriage-ACTU.shtml

MARQUIS, Mélanie, Un premier coup de broai dans le Code criminel canadien, L’actualité le 8 mars 2017. [Online] July 4, 2017. URL link: http://lactualite.com/actualites/2017/03/08/fausses-nouvelles-magie-et-duels-coup-de-balai-dans-le-code-criminel-canadien/

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