The Gendered Nature of Canada’s Witchcraft Law

Here’s an interesting piece on Canadian witchcraft law. Natasha Bakht, University of Ottawa, Common Law Section, and Jordan Palmer, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, have published Modern Law, Modern Hammers: Canada’s Witchcraft Provision as an Image of Persecution at 35 Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues 123 (2015). Here is the 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.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

See also my post on the subject here at the Law and Magic Blog.



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