Canada’s weirdest laws: it’s illegal to scare the queen

The penalty for alarming Her Majesty is steep: you could be charged with an indictable offence.
The penalty for alarming Her Majesty is steep: you could be charged with an indictable offence. (Photo: REUTERS/Chris Jackson/Pool)

She’s on our $20 bill, is patron of over 600 charities, and she just celebrated her 90th birthday.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of the House of Windsor, also known as Queen Elizabeth II, has visited Canada every few years since she ascended the throne of Great Britain. Many Canadians hold her in high regard, as does the law in Canada.

See: Canada’s weirdest laws: it’s illegal to challenge someone to a duel

The law actually affords the queen special protection under its “prohibited acts” section in s. 49 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which forbids a person from frightening her or commit any other act that could “alarm” her.

The code states that a person breaks the law if he or she:

  • Does an act with intent to alarm Her Majesty or to break the public peace, or;
  • Does an act that is intended or is likely to cause bodily harm to Her Majesty.

The penalty for alarming Her Majesty is steep. You could be charged with an indictable offence, which is considered a serious offence under the code and could face up to 14 years in prison.

So how many Canadians have actually been charged under this law?

Zero according to the Justice Canada project conducted a few years ago.

If no one has ever been charged with this crime in almost 150 years, why is it still in the books?

See: Canada’s weirdest laws: Pretending to practise witchcraft is illegal

Good question.

Scaring the queen has been a forbidden act since Confederation and can be traced back to Britain’s Treason Act of 1842. This law was created as a response to a British man who pointed a gun at then-Queen Victoria, though he did not fire.

Under that treason act, a person could receive a punishment of flogging and up to seven years in prison.

See: Canada’s weirdest laws: Hooting and hollering now allowed in Bracebridge, Ont.

So the next time you wave to the queen when she comes to visit, remember to leave your Freddy Krueger mask at home.

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