The York Regional Police made clear in their statement that,
The offence of Pretending to Practice Witchcraft, under the Criminal Code of Canada, specifically deals with individuals who fraudulently portray themselves as having fortune-telling abilities or pretend to use witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration in order to obtain money or valuables from a victim. This charge is not connected in any way to any religion.
The report further notes that the police department
A few days prior to the Stevenson incident, Halton Regional Police Service 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau released a statement about a similar arrest on October 19, 2018. After a five month investigation, Dorie “Madeena” Stevenson, who worked at a registered business called the “Milton Psychic” in the town of Milton, was arrested under similar charges. This unrelated Stevenson allegedly defrauded victims of over $60,000 by manipulating victims “into believing something bad will happen to them unless they remit cash”. Detective Sergeant Costantini HRPS further noted that they “even see incidents where victims are required to make purchases and remit these purchases in order to be cleansed. Purchased items include; new cell phones, jewelry, appliances and gift cards. Purchases are made under the assumption these items will be returned, but they never are.”
Both police departments are urging the public to bring any additional victims to their attention.
These arrests occur at a time when Canada is attempting to finalize legislation that decriminalizes the practice of Witchcraft. Ensconced inside of Canada’s Criminal Code exists terminology outlawing certain practices but specifically addressing Witchcraft. These antiquated laws remain on the books and while their provenance is obscure and likely, rooted in the Witchcraft Acts of the United Kingdom, they remain in full force.
In 2017, the Government of Canada introduced legislation (Bill C-51) to remove archaic laws including the ones focused on the practice of Witchcraft. Bill C-51 overhauls numerous section of the Criminal Code but specifically abolishes Section 365 of The Criminal Code of Canada, which identifies Witchcraft practices as illegal. This section is not only dated but also somewhat cryptic in that it appears to make a distinction between those who practice Witchcraft and those who do so fraudulently:
Pretending to practise witchcraft, etc.
365 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.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 323.
This section is part “False Pretences” of the newly refurbished Criminal Code under Part IX of the Code, that addresses ‘Offenses Against Rights of Property’. The code effectively establishes that faking the practice of Witchcraft is a punishable offence while the legitimate practice Witchcraft remains protected by the Section 2 Guarantees of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Bill C-51 vacates the language about Witchcraft and repeals Section 365. The Bill has received its third reading in the Senate on October 29, 2018 and moves forward for Royal Assent.
The Wild Hunt will continue to follow this story and report as developments occur.