Canadian Witch Trials: Two Women Accused Of Pretending To Practice Witchcraft

October 31, 2018 - 4:51 pm

TORONTO (WCBS 880) -- Anyone pretending to be a witch in Canada should be on high-alert.

At least two Canadian women have been charged with an unusual crime which would better belong in 17th-century Massachusetts: pretending to be a witch.

Dorie “Madeena” Stevenson, 32, a fortune teller from Ontario was arrested on Oct. 18, following a months-long investigation.

She is accused of defrauding a supposed client of over C$60,0000 (about $45,500) in cash and property.

Only a week later, Samantha Stevenson, 27, was arrested in a similar situation.

Authorities said the 27-year-old convinced a 67-year-old man that the only way to get rid of his “evil spirits” was to sell his home and transfer the money to her bank account. She promised to return the funds when the spirit was cleansed; she never did.

Both women weren’t necessarily arrested for practicing witchcraft, but rather pretending to practice witchcraft.

“It turns out that this law was sort of brought over when Canada started its own criminal code in 1892,” said Amanda Coletta, of the Washington Post.

They were charged under section 365 of Canada’s criminal code, which deals with “pretending to practice witchcraft.”

“It comes from a British law, which actually repealed practicing witchcraft as a felony, but left in this little clause for punishing people who use the idea that they might be able to practice witchcraft to sort of obtain something of value or to defraud people,” Coletta explained.

The two women accused often advertise themselves as a psychics and demand large sums of money to help remove curses or evil spirits from clients, police said.

The offense carries a punishment of up to six months in prison or a $2,000 fine, or both.

Coletta explained that police refer to the crime as “evil blasting scams” in which the offender convinces a client that they have been cursed and the only way to remove it is to purchase something that the offender could then cleanse.

She stressed that practicing witchcraft in Canada is not a crime, but pretending to be a witch in order to defraud people is.

The archaic law in which the two women are being charged under is expected to be erased from existence in the coming months.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration introduced legislation that would remove “zombie laws” – which are considered redundant or obsolete.

However, Coletta told WCBS 880 that it’s not uncommon for police to dig up old parts of the criminal code to arrest and charge people.

As for any children or adults who wish to dress up as witches for Halloween, Coletta said not to worry as dressing up in the costume won’t be considered a criminal offense.