Feel free to challenge your nemesis to a duel, Canada. Not right away – doing so is still an offence under the Criminal Code.
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.
The Criminal Code has been amended a number of times since, but some provisions have stuck around even as society has advanced and matured.
WATCH: There are some weird laws that still exist in Canada today.
The criminal ban on crime comics, for example, dates back to the 1940s. While characters like Superman, Batman, and Captain America had already made their debuts, superheroes didn’t dominate the comics field the way they do today.
Instead, the comics industry was primarily driven by pulp crime, horror, and romance stories and — without video games, smartphones and the endless possibilities kids today have for entertainment — their reach as an entertainment medium was considerable.
The backlash came to a head in Canada in November 1948, when two boys pretending to be highway bandits shot and killed a man in northern British Columbia, seemingly at random.
The last time charges were laid under the crime comics law was in 1987, against a Calgary-based comic retailer. Even in that case, though, the charges were eventually changed to distribution of sexually explicit material.
Other criminal hangovers from the days of yore Wilson-Raybould’s bill aims to repeal include: advertising a reward for the return of stolen property with a “no questions asked” offer, issuing trading stamps and publishing blasphemous libel.
WATCH:Proposed criminal code changes aim to avoid court backlogs, remove outdated laws
What is “blasphemous libel,” you’d like to know? Unfortunately, the code never defined it. In any case, nobody has been convicted of blasphemous libel since the 1920s; a charge against a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., movie theatre in 1980 for showing Monty Python’s Life of Brian was quickly stayed.
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With files from Global News’ Elton Hobson and Patrick Cain
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