Lesser known offences in the Canadian Criminal Code that are still on the books in 2020
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to be substituted for any legal advice.
The Government of Canada recently gave the Criminal Code a legal face lift after conducting a detailed review to eliminate all the excess and outdated (err, weird) laws. Some of Canada’s most archaic criminal acts were repealed recently and taken off the books. For example, up until December 13, 2018, sorcery, enchantment and fortune telling for pay was a criminal offence. But there still remains some interesting, unique and lesser known criminal offences. Here are a few of my favourites:
1. Moon crimes
You can be charged for a criminal offence when you’re on the moon! That’s right folks, section 7(2.3) of the Criminal Code says a Canadian crew member can be convicted if:
- they commit an act or omission that, had it been committed on earth, would be an indictable offence, AND
- they commit that act while on or in relation to a flight element of the Space Station or by any means of transportation to or from the Space Station.
So, if Sandra Bullock was a Canadian crew member, I wonder if the ending of Gravity would have been any different, hmm…
2. Seducing the military
Please don’t seduce a member of the Canadian Armed Forces from their duty and allegiance to Her Majesty. If you do, sections 53(a) and 53(b) of the Criminal Code say you could face up to 14 years of jail. Attempting to incite or induce them to commit a traitorous or mutinous act is also a no, no!
3. Other military distractions
While we’re on the topic of things not to do while interacting with a member of our Canadian Armed Forces: section 62(a) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to interfere with, impair or influence the loyalty or discipline of a member of the force. No silly faces during cadet training, please!
4. Stealing ships
Did you know that if you are in Timbuktu and you steal a Canadian ship, you can face serious jail time? Whether you are in or out of Canada, if you steal a Canadian ship, it’s an offence according to section 75(a). Leave your Jack Sparrow inclinations at home!
5. Fight clubs
Unless you’re an amateur athlete or a boxer, no “Fight Clubs” allowed! According to section 83 of the Criminal Code, everyone who engages (whether as a fighter or a referee), advises, encourages, promotes, reports or aids in medical care at a prize fight can be found guilty of an offence. And face up to two years of jail!
6. Fake terrorism
Now while we are all aware that terrorism is very illegal, did you know that inciting a hoax about a terrorist attack or terrorist activity occurring is also illegal? I guess you can get in trouble for fake news according to section 83.231 of the Criminal Code.
7. Lost guns
Do you remember your lost and found box at school where sad, lonely mittens waited until their rightful owner retrieved them? Well, tuck your inner child away because if you have lost or found a firearm and don’t report it to the authorities, you can be jailed for up to 5 years per section 105 of the Criminal Code!
8. Burying bodies
If Norman Bates were on Canadian soil, he would probably be prosecuted for violating section 182(a) of the Criminal Code. If you bury a corpse or human remains incorrectly, you can face some serious jail time.
9. Setting traps
If you get inspired as you watch Home Alone this holiday season, please keep one thing in mind: don’t try this at home! Setting a trap that is likely to cause death or bodily harm can land you a criminal record and up to 5 years in jail according to section 247(a) of the Criminal Code.
10. Used is not new
Thinking about starting your own store front? Great! Just don’t pretend like used items are new ones when you sell them. Or you could go to jail for up to two years because you violated section 411 of the Criminal Code.
11. Growing gold
This one I’m just going to let you read for yourselves:
451 Every person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years who, without lawful justification or excuse, has in their custody or possession, knowing that it has been produced or obtained by impairing, diminishing or lightening a current gold or silver coin,
(a) gold or silver filings or clippings,
(b) gold or silver bullion, or
(c) gold or silver in dust, solution or otherwise.Section 451 of the Criminal Code
12. Seditious libel
Finally, everyone who speaks seditious words, publishes seditious libel or is party to a seditious conspiracy can go to jail for 14 years via section 61 of the Criminal Code. What are seditious words you ask? According to section 59 of the Criminal Code, they are “words that express a seditious intention.” Don’t be seditious.
A few of my favourite things…
And there you have it! A who’s who of lesser known and sometimes obscure criminal offences in Canada that are still currently on the books. Unfortunately, frightening or alarming the queen via section 49 and duelling via section 71 were only current until December 13, 2018. Otherwise, they would have definitely made my favourite things list.
EDITOR’S NOTE | Just in case you are still wondering, the definition of “seditious” is “inciting or causing people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch” (from Oxford Languages).
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The information in this article was correct at time of publishing. The law may have changed since then. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LawNow or the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.
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