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Are these women Canada’s last illegal practitioners of fake witchcraft? – National




Typical police arrest bulletins are rather dry: so-and-so is 20 something years old and has been charged with the following offences; he will appear in court on this future date.

But twice this week, Ontario cops shared some rather unusual charges, ones thematically appropriate given Halloween is just a few days away and some little boys and girls will undoubtedly trick-or-treat in pointy black hats, brooms in hand.

Halton Police made the first arrest, charging a Milton psychic with a slew of charges including witchcraft and fortune telling. Next, York Regional Police made a similar arrest, charging a woman with witchcraft and fraud as a result of an evil spirit blessing scam that robbed a senior man of $600,000.

In that case, 27-year-old Samantha Stevenson is alleged to have posed as Evanna Lopez, convincing the man that to rid himself of evil spirits in his home, he had to sell it and transfer her the money (these charges have not been proven in court).

After months-long investigation, Milton psychic faces fraud, extortion charges

In explaining the charge, York Regional Police said the Criminal Code is quite clear that you cannot falsely portray yourself as having fortune-telling capabilities, nor can you pretend to be using witchcraft, enchantments, conjurations or other such sorcery (being a witch is not actually a crime).

The police release then goes on to clarify, “This charge is not connected in any way to any religion.”

That point is worth lingering on, says Jordan Palmer, a Hamilton, Ont.-based lawyer who co-authored a paper on section 365 in 2015, given that the section of the Criminal Code on pretending to practise witchcraft, section 365, is rooted in religion, upholding Christianity, to be precise.

“In the past, it’s been used as a tool of persecution against people who aren’t Christian and that’s certainly the way it still plays out around the world now.”

That two people are facing fresh witchcraft charges this week came as a surprise to Palmer, given Bill C-51 is expected to soon remove witchcraft from the Criminal Code, along with a series of other rather strange provisions.

FROM 2016: Did you know? Comic books depicting crime are technically illegal in Canada

So, if this week’s charges aren’t about religion, the alleged crimes can be addressed using the Criminal Code’s fraud provisions, and the Criminal Code witchcraft references are on the way out, why trot out the headline-grabbing witchcraft charge?

“They’re obviously allowed to use any law that’s still on the books, even if it’s in the process of being repealed,” explains Omar Ha-Redeye, a lawyer at Fleet Street Law in Toronto.

Think about cannabis legalization, he says. Even though the entire country knew for months marijuana would be legal for recreational consumption as of Oct. 17, cops continued to charge people with possession-related offences. Those offences are expected to be eligible for official pardons in the near future.

How far should Canada go to erase cannabis convictions?

“They’re well within their rights to do it,” Ha-Redeye says. “But the likelihood of the Crown continuing to prosecute it is lower.”

From a policing standpoint, he says it’s likely a standard arrest tactic: throw as many charges as you can at a suspect in an attempt to worry them into entering a plea. In most cases, Ha-Redeye says, the witchcraft-specific charges don’t tend to go very far.

“What frequently happens is that the Crown will drop many of the charges and they won’t proceed on the witchcraft charges.”

Pretending to practise witchcraft is a summary offence, meaning a convicted person can face up to six months in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines. It’s not clear how frequently witchcraft charges are laid. In Ontario, there have been only four witchcraft convictions in the last decade, although it’s not clear if those convictions come from four individual fake witches or one fake witch with multiple convictions.

One conviction was logged in 2009, a second in 2010, and two convictions were recorded in 2017. It’s unclear what will happen to Samantha Stevenson, charged with witchcraft by the York Regional Police, or Dorie (Madeena) Stevenson, charged with witchcraft by Halton Police.

WATCH: The new face of Witchcraft

Even if the Crown does decide to proceed with the charges, Ha-Redeye says there’s no real reason they should. Both women are facing fraud charges.

“Fraud generally can already be used,” he says.

“We don’t need to go to these provisions, including witchcraft, which are inflammatory and strange when we have existing provisions in the books.”

Historically, the Criminal Code’s witchcraft provision has been about stamping out anything that runs contrary to Christianity, Palmer says. It’s been used target Wiccans, fortune-telling Roma people, and others who are inclined to tell fortunes or believe, and share their beliefs, in the supernatural.

As such, Palmer says, “the law inordinately affects women or minorities.”

Although most charges are dropped, in the 1990s someone did argue the provision on witchcraft was discriminatory all the way to the Supreme Court, Ha-Redeye says. The Supreme Court did not agree that “a dishonest person who’s basically taking money from someone is not a threat to religious freedom,” he says, but even in that decision, it revealed why the witchcraft provision is really mostly used now for fraud.

55% of Canadian companies say they’ve been victims of fraud — experts say it’s likely more

That’s why the federal government says it’s working to remove it, along with a slew of so-called “zombie laws,” meaning laws that haven’t been removed from the books but have been deemed unconstitutional by the courts.

In addition to axing the illegal practice of fraudulent witchcraft, Bill C-51, which is nearing its final vote, will remove provisions against challenging someone to a duel, publishing blasphemous libel, issuing trading stamps, possessing, printing, distributing or publishing crime comics, and advertising a reward for the return of stolen property “no questions asked.”

Not everyone thinks the witchcraft provision needs to be removed.

Last year, Peter Van Loan, a Conservative MP who retired last month, said he didn’t see what harm there was in keeping the provisions against fraudulent witchcraft.

“We all chuckle and laugh,” he said during a June Question Period, but, “the concern is, and we have all heard stories like this, that people use these kinds of fraudulent witchcraft powers to persuade people that, for example, if they put $10,000 in an envelope …. he or she will be saved.”

Van Loan bemoaned modernization for the sake of modernization.

“Does that provision, as it exists right now, cause any harm? No. Does it give the police an avenue or resource in the case of those particular unusual offenses? Yes, it does.”

Maintaining the witchcraft provision does harm, counters Palmer.

FROM 2014: What is Wicca all about?

It’s a constant reminder of police in the past harassing fortune tellers who weren’t really causing any harm, he says. Between the 1970s and 1990s, Palmer says police would frequently visit Roma people or immigrants from Eastern Europe and get their palms read only to slap them with a witchcraft charge.

Around the world “very bad things” still happen to people accused of being witches today, he says. Some are turned out of their communities, some have their property confiscated, and others pay for the allegations with their life.

“It’s superfluous,” he says, “and the optics of it aren’t good.”

The fate of the two Ontario women charged with practicing fake witchcraft this week has yet to be determined.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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