Did you know it’s illegal to intentionally alarm or frighten the Queen in Canada? Or that it’s against the law to paint a wooden ladder in Alberta? How about the legal limit on the number of coins you can use at a store?

These are just a few of the strange laws that many Canadians might be breaking and not even know. Here are a few of the laws that Toronto-based lawyer Peter Henein discussed on CTV’s Your Morning:


Under Canada’s Currency Act of 1985, there are limits to how many coins can be used in a single transaction. Merchants can refuse your money if you try to buy something with more than $5 in nickels, $25 in loonies or $40 in toonies.


In the Criminal Code, under Section 365, it reads it is illegal to: “fraudulently pretend to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration” or to tell fortunes for payment.


Under Toronto’s municipal code, it is illegal to hold more than two garage sales a year. Those who try to set up a perpetual yard sale on their front lawn could face a fine of up to $5,000.


Under the Criminal Code’s Sec. 71, it is illegal to challenge or be challenged by someone to a duel. This is considered a serious, indictable offence that could result in a punishment of up to two years in jail.


There is a complete set of laws about maple syrup, aimed at keeping fake maple products off of Canadian store shelves. It’s called the Maple Product Regulations and it states that “no person shall market a product in import, export, or interprovincial trade in such a manner that it is likely to be mistaken for a maple product.”


The Queen’s peace is so important that there is a separate section in the Criminal Code – Sec. 49 – that states it is prohibited to intentionally alarm or frighten the Queen. That too is a serious indictable offence that could result in a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Lawyer Peter Henein, who practices in intellectual property law in Toronto, says most of these laws were created during times when they addressed issues that concerned the community at the time.

The witchcraft laws, for example, were likely meant to be like anti-gambling or anti-“grafter” laws. Others are simply bylaws that affect only a certain community, and were likely drafted, Henein says, after several “nosy neighbours” complained enough about a certain issue to their local city or town councilor.

Henein notes that the Criminal Code is set to be reviewed soon. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould promised back in March to expunge the Criminal Code of so-called “zombie laws” that remain on the books even after having been deemed unconstitutional by the courts.

For example, Canada’s laws on abortion is set to be removed, as are sections that cover the act of spreading false news, anal sex, and vagrancy.

Wilson-Raybould introduced Bill C-51 in June that would repeal or update sections of the Criminal Code deemed obsolete or redundant, including the ban on challenging someone to a duel and fraudulently practising witchcraft.

Henein notes that laws can also be repealed or amended without a full constitutional challenge that goes all the way to the Supreme Court, as the abortion provisions did.

“You don’t need a big legal challenge to determine that a law is unconstitutional,” he said. “Something can be struck from the laws when we decide it’s a little outdated.”