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Top 10 Quirky Canadian laws and their origins

posted June 28, 2017

Quirky Canadian laws

Canada is home to so many incredible places, attractions, cities, national parks and people. But you might not know that the country is also home to some quirky laws.

Ahead of your luxurious holiday to Canada take a look at 10 of the strangest old and existing laws. The quirky laws range from it being illegal to use a dog sled on a sidewalk to potentially being locked up for scaring the Queen!

However, as the Huffington Post reveals, many of these laws are going to change as Canadian law is set to be updated within the next few months. So take a look before they’re gone, just to make sure…

1. It is illegal to scare the Queen

It is illegal to scare the Queen

According to the Criminal Code of Canada it is illegal across the whole of Canada for anyone to scare the Queen.

Under the Prohibited Acts section it states; “does an act with intent to alarm Her Majesty or to break the public peace”.

If the law is broken, the offender can face a jail term of up to 14 years in prison as it is regarded as a serious indictable offence.

The law, according to FindLaw Canada, has been in existence since Confederation and can be traced back to Britain’s Treason Act of 1842. It was created as a response to a British man who pointed a gun at then-Queen Victoria, though he did not fire.

2. It is illegal to create, possess, and sell crime comics

Crime comics are illegal in Canada

The Justice Laws website says anyone who “makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation a crime comic” is committing a criminal offence.

This law dates back to the late 1940s when superheroes didn’t dominate the comic’s field like today and instead were driven by pulp crime, horror and romance stories.

During the 1940s there was outcry about the crime and violence depicted in comic books and, as the Global News reports, the problem was highlighted when two boys in 1948 played the role of highway bandits and shot and killed a man in British Columbia. Following this incident the law was passed to make it illegal to create, possess or sell crime comics.

The law is still in place today and any magazine or comic that depicts the commission of a crime, or the events connected with the commission of a crime, before or after is illegal. This essentially means that all superhero comics including the likes of Spiderman or Batman are illegal.

3. Prohibited to challenge someone to a duel and/or accept an invitation to a duel

It is also still a criminal offence to challenge someone to a duel and/or accept an invitation to a duel in Canada.

The law reads, “Everyone who challenges or attempts by any means to provoke another person to fight a duel, attempts to provoke a person to challenge another person to fight a duel, or accepts a challenge to fight a duel, is guilty of an indictable offense and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.”

This rule has a maximum punishment of two years. The last person to die in a duel on Canadian soil was Robert Lyon, who fell victim to John Wilson’s bullet in 1833 after they fought over their love of a young school teacher.

4. It is against the law to use a dog sled on a sidewalk

It is illegal to use a dog sled on a sidewalk

The town of Hay River in the Northwest Territories makes it illegal to use a dog sled on a sidewalk. The law states; “Unless otherwise posted, where a pathway or sidewalk passes through an area prohibited to dogs, dogs on a leash are permitted in such areas provided they remain on the defined pathway or sidewalk and are not running at large.”

The Northwest Territories is renowned for receiving lots of snow and that’s why dogsleds are widely used in the province, but the local government for the Hay River banned dog sleds on sidewalks to prevent any potential accidents.

Don’t fear though, as there are plenty of other places you can go dogsledding that aren’t on pavements, including in Alberta and Ontario.

Ava Mehta, Sales & Marketing Senior Account Manager, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation, recommends some places you can go dog sledding in the province.

“We recommend going dogsledding in the snow at Winterdance located in the Haliburton Highlands on the doorstep of the Algonquin Provincial Park, just over three hours’ drive from Toronto. Here you can experience a two hour, half day or even moonlit dogsledding experience with purebred Siberian huskies, a unique way to experience this outdoor haven.”

5. It is forbidden to own a pet rat

The Agricultural Pets Act for Alberta makes it illegal for you to own or bring a pet rat into the province.

The rule states, “A person shall not purchase, keep or sell live rats unless the person holds a permit issued under subsection.”

In the 1950s the law was introduced after Norway rats were discovered on a farm near Alaska on the eastern border of the province. After concerns that these rats might spread plague throughout Alberta, the government decided to halt the spread of rats to the West and the Alberta Department of Agriculture rolled out a rat control program.

6. It is against the law to paint a wooden ladder

It is illegal to paint a wooden ladder in Alberta

Arguably the quirkiest Canadian law of the lot is the fact that it is illegal to paint a wooden ladder in the province of Alberta.

In the Alberta governments Occupational Health and Safety Code it states that “a person must not paint a wooden ladder”. However, you can preserve a wooden ladder by painting it with protective coating.

If an employer is using wooden scaffolds, then they must be constructed of unpainted dressed lumber.

The law appears in the 2009 safety code and was created to ensure you can tell the condition of such a ladder.

7. It is against the law to swear in a public park in Toronto

If you are holidaying in Toronto something to remember is that it is illegal to swear in a public park. The rule, as described in the Toronto Municipal Code, says, “While in a park, no person shall indulge in riotous, boisterous, violent, threatening, or illegal conduct or use profane or abusive language.”

If you are found swearing you could face a fine of over $200, although the Find Law Canada blog says that there is no evidence to suggest anyone has actually been penalised for this in the city.

8. It is against the law to climb a tree in Oshawa

It is against the law to climb a tree in Oshawa

Oshawa is a city located on the Lake Ontario shoreline and is a nice destination for a vacation, but one thing for you to remember is to not climb a tree in the city.

One of the by-laws for the city says, “No person shall interfere with a tree or part of a tree located on municipal property, including but not limited to attaching, affixing or placing upon in any manner any object or thing to a tree or part of a tree, and climbing the tree.”

The Canadian Law Discussion talks about the origins of the law, “This law was put into place to prevent unable citizens from trying to act like Spiderman. The city of Oshawa says they care deeply about the safety of their citizens and therefore this law is in place.”

9. Taxi drivers cannot wear t-shirts in Halifax

A Halifax regional municipality by-law states that “every driver while in control of a taxi or accessible taxi shall wear a shirt or military type blouse with a collar and sleeves (no T-shirts), ankle-length trousers, or dress shorts which are worn within at least three inches of the knee, socks and shoes, which clothing shall be in a neat and tidy condition at all times. Every female driver may, in place of ankle-length trousers, wear a skirt.”

10. It is illegal to pretend to practice witchcraft

Practicing witchcraft in Canada is illegal

Section 365 on the Justice Laws Website states, “Everyone who fraudulently pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or 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.”

This law carries a maximum of six months in jail, but the original law came over from the UK after it had passed the Witchcraft Act in 1542. The law is still in existence in Canada to crack down on healers and curse-lifters who promise they can lift a curse put on you if you give them money.

Other useful laws

Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

It is illegal to fly to Canada without an eTA, which is a new entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals flying to or transiting through Canada, unless you are American or you already have a valid visa.

You will need one before you book your flight to Canada from the UK or else you will not be allowed to fly. British citizens need an eTA to fly, but do not need this type of visa if entering by land or sea.

Applying for an eTA is a simple and inexpensive online process (costing just CAN $7) and usually takes just a few minutes to do.

Applicants will need a passport, a credit card and an email address. During the process you will have to enter basic personal information like your name, passport number, email address and will have to answer a few simple questions.

The approval process takes just minutes and once you receive your eTA it will be valid for five years or until your passport expires, meaning you can fly to Canada as many times as you like without having to re-apply.


British nationals who fly into Canada do not need a visa and just need an eTA, but there are lots of travellers who need a visa to Canada by any method of travel – bus, plane, train, car or cruise ship.

However, British citizens that first enter Canada by land or sea will need a Visa as the eTA is only for travellers that enter the country for the first time by air. This law affects all cruises that stop in Canada including most cruises to and from Alaska. If you fail to present the required visa you will be denied boarding with no refund. You can find out about all the other travellers that need a visa here.

Travelling between Canada and the US

Travelling between Canada and the US is quite common, especially if you go on a Niagara bridge crossing or a cruise to Alaska.

You are required to provide a passport at the immigration checkpoint, so make sure you bring it with you for any Niagara Falls or Alaskan cruise trips.

The Niagara Falls Live site also states that if you make purchases between Niagara Falls Ontario and New York that you should save your receipts as you may be required to declare your purchases.

The USA have their own entry laws and to enter the country from Canada you will either need to sort out a Visa or an ESTA, as your Canada paperwork won’t cover you. To find out what type of visa you may need for entering the US, click here.

Image Credit: Chatham House, Shed On The Moon.

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