Modern Law, Modern Hammers: Canada's Witchcraft Provision as an Image of Persecution

Natasha Bakht and Jordan Palmer, "Modern Law, Modern Hammers: Canada's Witchcraft Provision as an Image of Persecution" (2015) 35 Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues 123.

Ottawa Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2015-36

26 Pages Posted: 19 May 2015 Last revised: 2 Dec 2015

Natasha Bakht

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Jordan Palmer

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 14, 2014

Abstract

This article examines Canada’s retention and application of the archaic offence of pretending to practise witchcraft in the Criminal Code. The disproportionate effect that the offence has on women and certain religious and racialized groups is highlighted. The historic persecution of women accused of practising witchcraft is discussed in order to provide some background to the history and ideology of the witchcraft offence in Canada. The gendered nature of the offence is considered along with the imperial role of the dominant Judeo-Christian belief structures in curtailing religious deviance and suppressing women’s powerful positions in the community. An analysis of the confused judicial interpretation of the offence and consideration of the social goals achieved in criminalizing such activity when several fraud offences already exist in Canada follows. Finally, the constitutionality of section 365 is examined using a feminist and religious freedom lens. The recent case of R v Persaud provides the modern day backdrop to examine Canada’s witchcraft offence and propose the repeal of section 365.

Keywords: witchcraft, women, Canada, religious freedom

Suggested Citation

Bakht, Natasha and Palmer, Jordan, Modern Law, Modern Hammers: Canada's Witchcraft Provision as an Image of Persecution (June 14, 2014). Natasha Bakht and Jordan Palmer, "Modern Law, Modern Hammers: Canada's Witchcraft Provision as an Image of Persecution" (2015) 35 Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues 123. ; Ottawa Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2015-36. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2606165

Natasha Bakht (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada

Jordan Palmer

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5
Canada

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