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Maggie Vail Murder Case

In September 1869, berry pickers in Saint John, New Brunswick, discovered the remains of an adult and a child hidden in some bushes. The bodies were soon identified as belonging to Sarah Margaret “Maggie” Vail and her infant daughter, Ella May. Later that month, architect John A. Munroe was charged with the murder of Vail, with whom he had an affair. Although his lawyer argued that Munroe was incapable of murder given his education and social standing — an early example of the “character” defence — he was convicted in December 1869. Munroe eventually confessed to the murders and was executed in February 1870.

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Genocide

Genocide is the intentional destruction of a particular group through killing, serious physical or mental harm, preventing births and/or forcibly transferring children to another group. The Canadian government has formally recognized five instances of genocide abroad: the Armenian genocide, the Holodomor, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Within Canada, some historians, legal scholars and activists have claimed that the historical, intergenerational and present treatment of Indigenous peoples are acts of genocide.

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Murder of Reena Virk

Reena Virk, a 14-year-old of South Asian origin, was savagely beaten and murdered by teenaged attackers in November 1997 in a suburb of Victoria, British Columbia. The crime horrified Canadians and attracted international media attention because of the brutality of the killing as well as the youth of Virk and those who attacked her. It prompted a national conversation about teenaged bullying and racism, led in part by Virk’s parents, who became anti-bullying campaigners in the wake of their daughter’s murder.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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Organized Crime in Canada

Organized crime is defined in the Criminal Code as a group of three or more people whose purpose is the commission of one or more serious offences that would “likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit, including a financial benefit, by the group.” Organized crime centres on illegal means of making money, such as gambling; prostitution; pornography; drug trafficking; insurance and construction fraud; illegal bankruptcy; motor vehicle theft; computer crime; and counterfeiting, among many others. The structure, sophistication and widespread nature of organized crime first became evident in the 1960s and 1970s. Some criminal organizations are based on ethnicity, such as the Italian Mafia and Chinese triads. Others are founded within certain industries (e.g., construction) or activities (e.g., biker gangs).

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Torts in Canada

Tort law is a cornerstone of the Canadian legal system. It provides compensation for people who have been injured; or whose property has been damaged by the wrongdoing of others. Tort law is a vast area of private law. It has evolved to keep up with technology and social issues. It has been used by a growing number of victims of crime to help them seek justice against perpetrators. It has also been at the centre of high-profile Canadian cases involving the abuse of children; and the liability of governments for failing to protect citizens from contagious diseases and from defective medical devices.

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École Polytechnique Tragedy (Montreal Massacre)

On 6 December 1989, a man entered a mechanical engineering classroom at Montreal’s École Polytechnique armed with a semi-automatic weapon. After separating the women from the men, he opened fire on the women while screaming, “You are all feminists.” Fourteen young women were murdered, and 13 other people were wounded. The shooter then turned the gun on himself. In his suicide note, he blamed feminists for ruining his life. The note contained a list of 19 “radical feminists” who he said would have been killed had he not run out of time. It included the names of well-known women in Quebec, including journalists, television personalities and union leaders.

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Robert Pickton Case

Between 1978 and 2001, at least 65 women disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Robert Pickton, who operated a pig farm in nearby Port Coquitlam, was charged with murdering 26 of the women. He was convicted on six charges and sentenced to life in prison. In a jail cell conversation with an undercover police officer, Pickton claimed to have murdered 49 women. The murders led to the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history, and Pickton’s farm became the largest crime scene in Canadian history. The case became a flash point in the wider issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. In 2012, a provincial government inquiry into the case concluded that “blatant failures” by police — including inept criminal investigative work, compounded by police and societal prejudice against sex trade workers and Indigenous women ­— led to a “tragedy of epic proportions.”

Warning: This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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Capital Punishment in Canada

In pre-Confederation Canada, hundreds of criminal offences were punishable by death. By 1865, only murder, treason and rape were still considered capital offences. In 1962, Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were the last of 710 prisoners to be executed in Canada since 1859. After 1976, the death penalty was permitted only for members of the Armed Forces found guilty of cowardice, desertion, unlawful surrender, or spying for the enemy. The federal government completely abolished state executions in 1998.

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Criminal Code of Canada

Canada’s Criminal Code is a federal statute. It was enacted by Parliament in accordance with section 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867, which gives the federal government exclusive jurisdiction to legislate criminal offences in Canada. The Criminal Code contains most of the criminal offences that have been created by Parliament. Other criminal offences have been incorporated into other federal statutes. The Code defines the types of conduct that constitute criminal offences. It establishes the kind and degree of punishment that may be imposed for an offence, as well as the procedures to be followed for prosecution.