In Canada and around the world, many laws that may be considered outdated are still on the books; these are known as "zombie laws." One such criminal law in Ontario is that prohibiting people in the province that "pretend to practice witchcraft." Recently, a woman was charged under this law after allegedly using stories of psychic abilities to defraud victims.
According to reports, an alleged victim accused the supposed psychic fraud to the tune of over $63,000 in money and property. The accused would allegedly tell victims that she sensed bad energy, ghosts or a curse around them. She would ask for payment to do cleansing and rituals. The amounts were small at first, and some was even returned in order to gain trust. Eventually, however, amounts reaching $30,000 to $40,000 in cash would be requested.
The victim claimed that, despite request, the money was not returned and was told bad things would happen to the victim and the victim's family for making such a request. Police believed the "psychic" was taking advantage of vulnerable people and subsequently charged her with fraud, extortion and the "pretending to practice witchcraft" zombie law. They clarified in a radio interview that it is not illegal to be a psychic to practice any religion that involves witchcraft, although fraudulently telling fortunes for money crosses a legal boundary.
Federal Bill C-51, which is currently in its third reading before the Senate, will repeal this criminal law along with several other older statutes. However, in the interim prosecutors can still use these laws, although they do so sparingly. Those facing criminal charges in Ontario should speak to a lawyer about their possible defence option