Natal Day Weekend is celebrated in many communities around Nova Scotia. There are various community celebrations and festivals scheduled for the first weekend in August, although many are not called “Natal Day” celebrations. Festival acadien de Clare, New Glasgow Riverfront Jubilee, NS Folk Art Festival (Lunenburg), and the Cape Breton Bike Rally are just a few. Halifax-Dartmouth is celebrating its 119th Natal Day festival July 31 to August 4. Annapolis Royal has Natal Day festivities as does Pictou.

Have you ever thought about how different life in Nova Scotia was many years ago? Do you think the laws have changed at all? Take a look!

This Natal Day Weekend might be different if this provincial law from 1758 was still in effect: An ACT to prohibit the erecting of Distilling Houses, or setting up Stills within the Town of Halifax, or within one quarter of a mile of the present lines or pickets of the said Town. As the name suggests, the law made it an offence to distil, in the wording of the day, “any cordial waters, or any spirituous liquors”. The penalty was 100 pounds per still or distilling house.  Today, any person can make beer or wine for personal use – but people who sell or manufacture liquor without the proper licence or permit face stiff fines, and there are strict requirements for setting up a distillery.  Contact the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation for more info!

Soaring temperatures and sunny skies would be a blessing on Natal Day, but close your eyes and think of toboggans and snow, the hard packed kind. In the category of “kids will be kids” we bring you this provincial law from 1811: An ACT to prevent Boys and others from Coasting and Sliding down the Hills in the Streets of Halifax. “Many accidents have happened,” declared the preamble to the law. The law then proceeded to authorize justices of the peace to pass regulations preventing kids from “sliding or coasting on the Snow or Ice, in Sleds or Sleys, down the Hills upon the Streets of the Town of Halifax, and suburbs thereof...”. The penalty was a maximum fine of 20 shillings, and parents could also be on the hook.  There is no such specific law in 2014. However, safety remains a hot topic – nowadays we let children do fun activities like skiing, snowboarding, cycling, skateboarding, scootering, in-line or roller skating, but we require them by law to wear helmets¹.  It’s not mandatory to wear a helmet while sledding but it is recommended.² Parents still risk fines if they let their children do these sports without a helmet, and more than 20 shillings! For example, a parent can be fined $406.45 for allowing their child to ski without a helmet, or about $147 if their child rides a bike or goes skateboarding, scootering, in-line or roller skating bareheaded. 

Canada is almost 150 years old. This federal law goes back to June 22, 1869, when Canada wasn’t even two: An Act respecting Procedure in Criminal Cases and other matters relating to Criminal Law. An offender sentenced to a whipping could be whipped one to three times, as decided by the judge. The whipping was to occur within the limits of the prison and under the supervision of the prison’s medical officer. The judge was under a duty to specify “the number of the strikes, and the instrument with which they shall be inflicted.” Canada no longer condones corporal punishment in prisons, but the law wasn’t formally abolished until 1972.³

Finally, only 50 years ago, in the revised statutes of 1958, there was a provincial law that brings to mind that popular South African wine, Goats do Roam. Of Stray Horses and Cattle applied “whenever any horses or cattle, or any swine or sheep shall stray into the yard, barn, or enclosure of any person.” The finder had to detain the stray and if no one claimed the animal within 24 hours a notice was to be posted by the town clerk with descriptive information such as the animal’s colour, size, age, and “ear marks if any”. If the animal went unclaimed after 10 days there was a sale, with proceeds after expenses going to the poor.  This law may seem hopelessly outdated to you city-dwellers, but there is actually a very similar law today, in the Fences and Detention of Stray Livestock Act, for those who keep farm animals.

¹legalinfo.org/legal-information-topics/helmet-law-ns.html; see also Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act and Snow Sport Helmet Act; and childsafetylink.ca
²professional.childsafetylink.ca
³csc-scc.gc.ca/text/pblct/rht-drt/05-eng.shtml (archived, Correctional Services Canada)