For over a century, it’s been illegal in Canada to “challenge or attempt by any means to provoke another person to fight a duel, attempt to provoke a person to challenge another person to fight a duel, or accept a challenge to fight a duel,” according to Section 71 of the country’s Criminal Code.
The penalties for breaking this law are up to two years in prison—but that might be about to change. This week, a member of Parliament introduced legislation to update antiquated sections of that code. Under the proposal, Section 71 would be removed entirely.
This would mean that, yes, it may once again legal to challenge someone to a duel in Canada, though any ensuing consequences (assault with a deadly weapon? murder, maybe?) would still be very much illegal.
Duels, as you probably know, were a mainstay of the 18th and 19th centuries, most famously in the case of Aaron Burr, who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton because of something the latter said at a New York dinner party. But death wasn’t the only outcome back then, since those pistols could easily jam or misfire, and were not nearly as accurate as modern firearms. A lot of duels—like Pierre’s duel with a suspected lover of his wife in War and Peace—ended with a loser who was merely injured.
Today, of course, we carry much deadlier weapons. So while it might soon be legal to challenge one to a duel in Canada—it’s unclear when the legislation might pass, though it’s making its way through Canada’s House of Commons—maybe keep it at that. Guns aren’t what they used to be.