Obstructing worship and the Canadian Criminal Code

In this guest post, Alan Perry, Executive Archdeacon of Edmonton and a graduate of the Cardiff LLM course, explores one of the more unusual pitfalls of criminal law reform.

The Parliament of Canada is in the process of doing some clean-up and modernization of the Criminal Code. There was a particularly embarrassing situation about a year ago when a judge rendered a decision in a long and convoluted murder trial based on a provision of the Criminal Code that had been struck down a number of years ago by the Supreme Court but never formally repealed. The presence of a number of what were referred to colloquially as “zombie laws” in the Code, as well as some desire to make some other changes to the Code resulted in Bill C-51, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act”, which is currently before Parliament.

One of the provisions proposed for repeal, either on the ground of redundancy or of obsolescence, was section 176, which prohibits obstructing a cleric in the performance of his duties or disrupting worship. Continue reading