Criminal Code Section 365

by | April 21, 2015

Canada’s Criminal Code Section 365 states:

 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.

It is curious language to examine.  In the first section (a), the implication of the language seems to be that it’s possible to pretend to exercise witchcraft, sorcery or conjuration in a manner other than “fraudulently”.  One supposes if the “service” is performed without fee or in the case of “magic shows”  where the show is understood to be an illusion, that language makes sense.

The second section (b) is much more direct.  When reading these things, I like to put the whole sentence together…”Every one who fraudulently undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.”  That’s a pretty straightforward legal sentence.

The third section is similarly straightforward…don’t take money to pretend to know how to find lost or stolen goods.

How is it, then, that we continue to have people like Theresa Caputo putting on shows for Canadian ticket purchasers?  I suppose by purchasing a ticket for a show, attendees are buying admission to entertainment and not paying consideration for a fortune, or otherwise paying for the services of a medium, fortune-teller, sorcerer, witch, etc.  I don’t pretend to know why this section of the criminal code does not apply to these shows, but it is certainly curious.

An effect of this section of the criminal code is, ironically to leave it open that some person with real skills in a “crafty science” can continue to sell those services without being guilty under Canadian law of fraud.  If this weren’t the case, why not simply shove the whole lot under a straightforward fraud law that might say “Don’t charge people for services you’re not actually providing.”?

Do an internet search and you will find cases of people successfully charged under Criminal Code Section 365.  I suppose it should be used more often to send a message to fraudsters.

If we are to be honest with the ticket-buying public, should not the people who put on their shows be obligated to pull aside the curtain and admit that they don’t have the special powers they advertise rather than what they are doing, which is hide behind inadequate legal language drafted long ago?

h/t a CFIC member for the Theresa Caputo website reference

2 thoughts on “Criminal Code Section 365

  1. billybob

    The legal system does not care about psychics, drive along Finch Avenue near Yonge St. and there are hordes of them with big ads in front of their buildings.

    An example of a law no longer applied.

  2. Dr. Terry Polevoy

    The “medium is the message” to paraphrase a famous Canadian philosopher. It is very likely that nobody in the vast media empires owned and controlled by our TV, Radio, and hard-copy elite will ever ban these scam artists. It’s about time that the CBC do a show totally devoted to these scam artists. Maybe Marketplace or the Fifth Estate needs to do something. I’m not holding my breath.


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