How do we decide when the occult and the paranormal are real or fake? Is that the place of the criminal justice system? When do we deem someone’s religious practises “authentic”? Today, to discuss witchcraft legislation, social stigma and bill-C51, we will be joined by criminal defence attorney Jordan Palmer and tarot card reader Vanessa Robak. We will dive deeper into the history of the laws around “fake” witchcraft, its’ use in the Canadian legislative context and gain some first-hand understanding of the practise.

Some may ask, “what are zombie laws?”. In short, these are laws which are still in the criminal code which have been struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada. As these laws remain in the criminal code even after being struck down, they have lead to some confusion.

Recently, Bill C-51 was introduced to Canada’s Federal Parliament to fix some of this confusion and update the criminal laws in Canada. The bill aims to amend the criminal code, introducing some changes to sexual assault laws and removing a number of redundant, “zombie laws” from the books. Some of the more archaic, outdated or moralistic laws being removed are those banning duels, practising fake witchcraft and publishing crime comic books. The latter, reflecting the moral panic regarding the impact of comic books in the mid-20th century.

[Hear Host Jonah Kotzer’s In-depth monologue on the topic at 0.39].

Jordan Palmer is a practising lawyer specializing in civil litigation‎ in Ontario. Prior to re-entering the legal profession, Jordan earned his PhD in Law from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a student member of the SSHRC-funded worldwide Religion and Diversity Project. His academic specializations include religious diversity issues, human rights, and access to justice. [Interview at 11.31].

 “Anytime there’s criminalization of someone’s religious practices or beliefs, without criminalization of other people’s religious beliefs, there are some very some unsavoury and improper connotations to that law.” – Jordan Palmer, Civil Litigation Lawyer, in reference to section 365 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Vanessa Robak is a Toronto-based tarot card reader who has been practicing for over 15 years. She is currently offering professional readings under the name “Dogma + Ritual“, as well as hosting weekly music interview podcast Crystal Ballroom on the Bunz Podcast Network. [Interview at 39.57].

“Historically, witchcraft has really been the realm of the other… a lot of folks who don’t find themselves in the main demographic of power find themselves in these places where they can regain it in one way or another.”- Vanessa Robak, tarot-card reader.

Jonah Kotzer, Host, Technical Producer, Senior Producer
Dimitri Treheles, Technical Producer,
Nuri Kim, Technical Producer
Ian T. D. Thomson, Executive Producer
Leanna Mora, Executive Producer

Music Credits
Not Dead by Fine Times
International by Mono Threat
Long Time Running by The Tragically Hip
Ballad of the Weird Sisters by Blood Ceremony