5 Once-Banned Things That Could Soon Be Legal in Canada

iStock
iStock

In late 2015, Britain’s lawmakers planned to repeal more than 200 outdated laws, including bans on wood-hauling and “handling salmon under suspicious circumstances.” Now, Canada is following suit: As the National Post reports, our neighbors to the North are finally giving their antiquated Criminal Code, which was introduced in 1892, a much-needed overhaul, tabling legislation that will remove laws deemed "obsolete, redundant, or already ruled as unconstitutional.” Here are five of the strangest, silliest, and out-of-left-field laws that will soon be scrubbed from the books.

1. CHALLENGING SOMEONE TO A DUEL.

According to Smithsonian, the last duel-related death in Canada occurred on June 13, 1833, when a man named John Wilson shot a romantic rival who’d gotten a little too snuggly with his love interest. (The lady in question reportedly wasn't even interested in Wilson, but the two ended up getting married anyway.) Even though centuries have passed, dueling is illegal under Section 71 of Canada’s Criminal Code.

Currently, individuals who challenge or provoke someone to fight a duel, accept a dueling challenge, or try to persuade a person to duel someone else face a two-year prison sentence. But soon, Canadians will be able to engage in arranged combat without consequence—so long as the altercation in question doesn’t involve assault with a weapon, or cause bodily harm. (Nerf guns, foam swords, and wizard wands are probably OK.)

2. PRETENDING TO BE A WITCH.

According to Section 365 of Canada’s Criminal Code, it’s illegal to “pretend to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,” “tell fortunes,” or pretend to use magic to discover stolen or lost items."

According to the National Post, the law is descended from Medieval English laws that sentenced accused witches to burn at the stake—but, as Broadly points out, there are people in modern-day Canada who have been charged under Section 365. These cases were allegedly fraud-related, and involved swindlers who charged others money to lift “curses,” or pretended to embody the spirits of deceased family members for monetary gain. (Don’t worry—no one was sentenced to the stake.)

Technically, Section 365 only makes a very specific kind of fraud—pretending to use magic—illegal. However, some legal experts have said that the law is discriminatory toward those who actually do practice witchcraft, and that it’s redundant in light of other fraud laws.

"Few commentators would argue the law should not protect people from frauds perpetrated under threat of misfortune or promise of unattainable goals by a charlatan,” authors Natasha Bakht and Jordan Palmer wrote in the journal Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues. “However, the provision that differentiates this type of fraud from others is mired in historic oppression of women and religious minorities, and is not necessary to prosecute fraud.”

3. ADVERTISING AWARDS FOR MISSING ITEMS, NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

In America, individuals seeking a missing bike, pet, or backpack often hang signs promising a cash award for its safe return, “no questions asked.” But in Canada, under Section 143 of the Criminal Code, individuals can be punished under the law if they publicly advertise a reward for the return of lost or stolen items, and use “words to indicate that no questions will be asked if it is returned.”

Soon, this practice will likely be allowed—meaning people will be able to widen their search efforts after a beloved possession or pet goes missing.

4. POSSESSING, PRINTING, DISTRIBUTING, OR PUBLISHING CRIME COMICS.

Paragraph 163(1)(b) of Canada’s Criminal Code forbids possessing, printing, distributing, or publishing comics that depict the commission of a crime, or the events surrounding it. As Global News reports, this ban dates back to the 1940s, when comics mostly consisted of pulp crime, horror, and romance, and they were widely read by everyone—including children.

In 1948, two young comic fans in British Columbia were pretending to be highway bandits, and shot and killed a man. This led to a backlash against the comic book industry, and legislation was passed to ban their sale. That said, the last time an individual was charged under Paragraph 163(1)(b) of the Criminal Code was in 1987, and the charges were later changed to distribution of sexually explicit material.

5. COMMITTING BLASPHEMOUS LIBEL.

Section 296 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits “blasphemous libel,” has been on the books since 1892, according to Global News Canada. Individuals who break this law face a two-year jail sentence—even though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the rule means, or whether it’s meant to punish blasphemy-tinged libel or libel with elements of blasphemy.

“I can’t tell you what it is,” Ottawa-based lawyer Michael Spratt recently told Global News. “No lawyer alive today has had to deal with it.” Now, none will have to.

The last time someone was convicted of blasphemous libel was in 1927, when a Toronto man named Ernest Victor Sterry—who was both an atheist and a member of the Rationalist Society—was given a 60-day jail sentence. Meanwhile, a movie theater in the Ontario city of Sault Ste. Marie was charged with blasphemous libel in 1980 for screening the 1979 British satire film Monty Python’s Life of Bryan, but charges were later dropped.

That said, “these obscure statutes can be abused," Toronto criminal lawyer Sean Robichaud warned Global News. “We look at these and laugh, and say ‘What is blasphemous libel?’ and say that nobody has been prosecuted for the last 100 years on it, and sort of chuckle at it. But with something like that you may have a particular political movement get into power, and then they start prosecuting on these sorts of things. Then it’s no longer a joke, because that otherwise unused law can be used.”

10 Wireless Chargers Designed to Make Life Easier

La Lucia/Moshi
La Lucia/Moshi

While our smart devices and gadgets are necessary in our everyday life, the worst part is the clumsy collection of cords and chargers that go along with them. Thankfully, there are more streamlined ways to keep your phone, AirPods, Apple Watch, and other electronics powered-up. Check out these 10 wireless chargers that are designed to make your life convenient and connected.

1. Otto Q Wireless Fast Charging Pad; $40

Otto Q Wireless Fast Charging Pad
Moshi

Touted as one of the world's fastest chargers, this wireless model from Moshi is ideal for anyone looking to power-up their phone or AirPods in a hurry. It sports a soft, cushioned design and features a proprietary Q-coil module that allows it to charge through a case as thick as 5mm.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

2. Gotek Wireless Charging Music Station; $57

Gotek Wireless Charging Music Station
Rego Tech

Consolidate your bedside table with this clock, Bluetooth 5.0 speaker, and wireless charger, all in one. It comes with a built-in radio and glossy LED display with three levels of brightness to suit your style.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

3. BentoStack PowerHub 5000; $100 (37 percent off)

BentoStack PowerHub 5000
Function101

This compact Apple accessory organizer will wirelessly charge, port, and store your device accessories in one compact hub. It stacks to look neat and keep you from losing another small piece of equipment.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

4. Porto Q 5K Portable Battery with Built-in Wireless Charger; $85

Porto Q 5K Portable Battery with Built-in Wireless Charger
Moshi

This wireless charger doubles as a portable battery, so when your charge dies, the backup battery will double your device’s life. Your friends will love being able to borrow a charge, too, with the easy, non-slip hook-up.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

5. 4-in-1 Versatile Wireless Charger; $41 (31 percent off)

4-in-1 Versatile Wireless Charger
La Lucia

Put all of those tangled cords to rest with this single, temperature-controlled charging stand that can work on four devices at once. It even has a built-in safeguard to protect against overcharging.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

6. GRAVITIS™ Wireless Car Charger; $20 (31 percent off)

GRAVITIS™ Wireless Car Charger
Origaudio

If you need to charge your phone while also using it as a GPS, this wireless device hooks right into the car’s air vent for safe visibility. Your device will be fully charged within two to three hours, making it perfect for road trips.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

7. Futura X Wireless 15W Fast Charging Pad; $35 (30 percent off)

Futura X Wireless 15W Fast Charging Pad
Bezalel

This incredibly thin, tiny charger is designed for anyone looking to declutter their desk or nightstand. Using a USB-C cord for a power source, this wireless charger features a built-in cooling system and is simple to set up—once plugged in, you just have to rest your phone on top to get it working.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

8. Apple Watch Wireless Charger Keychain; $20 (59 percent off)

Apple Watch Wireless Charger Keychain
Go Gadgets

This Apple Watch charger is all about convenience on the go. Simply attach the charger to your keys or backpack and wrap your Apple Watch around its magnetic center ring. The whole thing is small enough to be easily carried with you wherever you're traveling, whether you're commuting or out on a day trip.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

9. Wireless Charger with 30W Power Delivery & 18W Fast Charger Ports; $55 (38 percent off)

Wireless Charger from TechSmarter
TechSmarter

Fuel up to three devices at once, including a laptop, with this single unit. It can wirelessly charge or hook up to USB and USB-C to consolidate your charging station.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

10. FurniQi Bamboo Wireless Charging Side Table; $150 (24 percent off)

FurniQi Bamboo Wireless Charging Side Table
FoneSalesman

This bamboo table is actually a wireless charger—all you have to do is set your device down on the designated charging spot and you're good to go. Easy to construct and completely discreet, this is a novel way to charge your device while entertaining guests or just enjoying your morning coffee.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

10 Hardcore Facts About HBO's Oz

J.K. Simmons stars in HBO's Oz.
J.K. Simmons stars in HBO's Oz.
HBO

When HBO was looking to expand its programming to include hour-long dramas in the late 1990s, the network was intrigued by writer/producer Tom Fontana’s pitch about a maximum security prison and a specific area, dubbed Emerald City, where prisoners could have more leeway in the hopes it would allow for their rehabilitation. Fontana came up with the idea following his work on Homicide: Life on the Street, where murderers were sent away: He wanted to explore what happened next.

Before The Sopranos or The Wire, television’s golden age arguably began on HBO on July 12, 1997, when the premium network premiered Fontana's prison drama Oz. As HBO’s first attempt at an hour-long dramatic series, it laid the groundwork for the dozens of risk-taking, novel, and novelistic shows to follow. On the series' 20th anniversary, check out some facts on the cast, the gore, and the alternate series finale idea that was never filmed.

1. Oz's creator is the person you see getting tattooed in the intro.

A former playwright, Fontana got his big break in television with the 1980s NBC hospital drama St. Elsewhere. In an impressive display of commitment to Oz—especially since he didn’t know if the show would even last beyond a season—Fontana volunteered his arm to get an “Oz” tattoo for the opening credits montage. The tattoo artist kept retracing his needle work so the crew could get the best take. Eventually, the artist stopped, saying that he “can’t let this guy bleed anymore.”

2. Oz's Greek chorus monologues were a necessity.

Viewers who tuned in to Oz were in for a shock—the show featured the kind of graphic violence and casual nudity you’d find in an actual prison. But they were also sometimes puzzled by Fontana’s narrative habit of putting one of the prisoners, Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau), in front of the camera for fourth-wall-breaking soliloquies. Fontana said he chose this approach because “in prison, guys aren’t that forthcoming about what they think and what they feel because that leaves them open and vulnerable to attack ... so my thought was just to let someone articulate what all this craziness meant.”

3. Oz was filmed in a cracker factory.

Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Harold Perrineau, and Eamonn Walker in 'Oz'
Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Harold Perrineau, and Eamonn Walker in Oz.
Max Aguillera-Hellweg/HBO

To house the sprawling, 60,000-square foot prison set, HBO commandeered an abandoned National Biscuit Company (a.k.a. Nabisco) factory in Manhattan. (The building had been the first to mass-produce Oreo cookies for the company.) The space was obtained after Fontana couldn’t find any empty prisons in which to shoot.

4. Playing a Neo-Nazi in Oz made J.K. Simmons feel depressed.

Oz is probably best remembered for its sprawling ensemble cast, with actors like Chris Meloni, J.K. Simmons, and Perrineau all going on to successful careers; others, like Ernie Hudson and Rita Moreno, were already well-established. At the time, Simmons appeared to be having particular trouble inhabiting the repugnant skin of Vern Schillinger, the head of the prison’s Aryan population. Simmons referred to Schillinger in the third person and told The New York Times in 1999 that he became “depressed” as a result of the role. In an interview with NPR, Simmons also shared that fans would occasionally stop him in the street to let him know they endorsed Schillinger’s viewpoints.

5. Real ex-cons worked on Oz.

For realism’s sake, Fontana instructed his casting director to hire ex-cons as extras whenever he could. Not all of them were relegated to the margins: Chuck Zito, who had a recurring role as Italian mafia heavy Chucky Pancamo, was a then-member of the Hells Angels and had served six years in prison for various offenses. More notably, he received press coverage for allegedly knocking out Jean-Claude Van Damme at a strip club in 1998.

6. Tom Fontana didn't want to kill Simon Adebesi in Oz.

Dean Winters and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in 'Oz'
Dean Winters and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in Oz.
HBO

From the first episode, Fontana made sure viewers didn’t grow too fond of any single character: One of the ostensible leads of the show, Dino Ortolani (Jon Seda), was murdered at the conclusion of the pilot episode, and the series picked prisoners off with regularity from that point on. But Fontana wasn’t trigger-happy when it came to killing off Simon Adebisi, the scheming, toothpick-munching inmate with a tiny hat sitting precipitously on the side of his head, who was played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. “I didn't want to kill that character, but it was a necessity due to the actor's wanting to move on,” Fontana told CNN in 2003, “rather than me saying, 'This is the end of the story.'”

7. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje exposed himself at random on the set of Oz.

Like many of the performers on Oz, Akinnuoye-Agbaje was expected to be comfortable with frontal male nudity—both his own and that of his castmates. According to Fontana, the actor didn’t appear to have many inhibitions about it. “If in a scene it said, ‘Adebisi takes out his penis,’ he would go, ‘I don’t take out my penis in this scene. There’s no reason for me to do that,’” Fontana told The Toast in 2015. “And I’d say ok, Adewale, don’t take out your penis. I don’t care. The next scene he’d take out the penis. It wasn’t scripted for that, but suddenly there was the penis.”

8. Oz predicted special musical episodes.

Remember the musical episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer? Or Scrubs? Oz did it first. With a cast taken in large part from the New York theater scene, the series was able to assemble an impressive all-song-and-dance episode in 2002. The highlight: Nazi Schillinger (Simmons) and nemesis Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) in a duet.

9. There was a different ending planned for Oz.

After six seasons, Oz ended in 2003 with the surviving cast members being—spoiler alert—evacuated from Oswald State following a chemical attack. But Fontana originally wanted to do something else. He recalled reading about a prison town that once flooded, forcing inmates to work side-by-side with citizens to build sandbag barriers to protect the entire community. It was deemed too expensive to shoot.

10. Tom Fontana wouldn't let his mom watch Oz ... which was probably a good idea.

Despite her expressed desire to see her son’s work, Fontana told the press he was adamant that his then-75-year-old mother not watch Oz. “She said, 'I know a lot about what goes on in the world,’” Fontana said in 1997. “I said, 'You don't know about this.' This isn't a place I want my 75-year-old mother to go."