Canada’s weirdest laws: it’s illegal to send a telegram under a false name

The telegram was a popular means of long-distance communication before the telephone was invented.
The telegram was a popular means of long-distance communication before the telephone was invented. (Photo: REUTERS/Keith Bedford)

Ah, the grand old times of yesteryear!

The Criminal Code of Canada forbids using a false name or impersonate someone else when sending a telegram. If you dare tap out a false name in Morse code when sending it, you will be considered to have committed a serious crime and could get up to five years in jail.

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Yes, you heard right, a telegram, as in the archaic means of communication they used in the popular British TV series Downton Abbey, a show that was set 100 years ago.

Although the part of the criminal act that forbade impersonating another person in a telegram has been archived, should you feel nostalgic and want to send one out, be aware it’s likely still illegal to use a false name when sending it.

The telegram was invented in the 1830’s and 1840’s and was a popular means of long-distance communication during WWI. Telegrams were messages sent to another person through a telegraph machine. This was a way to contact someone before telephones became the main way of communicating.

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Think of it as using text messaging today, except sending and receiving text messages on your smartphone is a lot faster and easier than telegrams ever were.

You’re probably wondering who in this day and age of smartphones, the Internet and social media would still send out a telegram. Apparently a few people still do as there are telegram services around in Canada.

So, if you are planning to be one of the three people in Canada who’ll send out a telegram this year, make sure that you’re not impersonating the other two, or you may find yourself in a jail cell.

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