Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Witchcraft" in the Canadian Criminal Code

Here is an interesting story from the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. It seems that the word "Witchcraft" is mentioned in a national fraud law in an interesting way:

"Every one who fraudulently
(a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,

(b) undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or

(c) 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."

The Star.Com covers this story as well:

"From January 1999 to October 2009, 38 people in Ontario were charged under Section 365, which deals with fraudulently pretending to exercise witchcraft, sorcery, fortune telling or conjuration.

The provision is really a remnant from the dark ages, said Alan Young, a professor at York University's Osgoode Hall law school. The charge, which was part of the code when it was enacted in 1892, has nothing to do with the occult, but with scammers who fake mystical powers, Young said. "

Many newspapers in Canada are full of advertisements by psychics. Psychic fairs are held in most major cities, and 900 numbers are advertised on television. The article goes on to cite a source claiming that there are in excess of 10,000 practicing psychics in Canada. There are members of our community who read cards at psychic and renaissance fairs and charge for services. One of our former members - Z Budapest was found guilty of a California version of a similar law over 20 years ago. I believe with COG's help she was able to successfully appeal that conviction.  

Even though this statute seems for now to be aimed at folks that collect big money from defrauded clients, the law's language offers easy potential for abuse, and all Canadian Wiccan psychic and tarot readers could potentially be at risk.