Search for "Criminal Code"

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The 1969 Amendment and the (De)criminalization of Homosexuality

From the earliest days of colonization to 1969, sodomy laws made sex between men illegal in Canada. In addition, a law enacted in 1892 made “gross indecency” between men illegal. This included anything that indicated same-sex attraction, including simple touching, dancing and kissing. The law was extended to women in 1953. In 1969, however, sodomy and gross indecency laws were changed, making such acts legal under some circumstances. The parties involved had to be 21 years of age or older and conduct their affairs in private. Sodomy and gross indecency remained illegal outside of the home or if three or more individuals were involved or present. Thus, Canada’s Criminal Code continued to equate homosexuality with criminal behaviour under many circumstances.

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New Impaired Driving Laws Come into Effect

Following the revision of drug-impaired driving laws earlier in the year, the Criminal Code was updated with comparable alcohol-impaired driving laws. The new laws, which are similar to ones in Germany, France, Ireland and Denmark, allow police to administer breathalyzer tests at their discretion, rather than requiring reasonable suspicion of impairment. They also increase the penalties for alcohol-impaired driving offences, including mandatory minimum fines and prison sentences. 

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Federal Government Cracks Down on Conversion Therapy

The federal government called on all provinces and territories to ban what it called the “shameful” and “cruel” practice of conversion therapy. The practice aims to convert people from homosexuality to heterosexuality through a combination of religious and psychological counselling. A statement issued by the government also noted that the therapy “has no scientific basis” and “can lead to life-long trauma… [W]e are actively examining potential Criminal Code reforms to better prevent, punish, and deter this discredited and dangerous practice.” 

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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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Suicide in Canada

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

Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. Suicide was decriminalized in Canada in 1972, while physician-assisted suicide was decriminalized in 2015. Suicide is among the leading causes of death in Canada, particularly among men. On average, approximately 4,000 Canadians commit suicide every year, and there are about 11 suicides per 100,000 people in Canada. This rate is higher for men and among Indigenous communities. Suicide is usually the result of a combination of factors, including addiction and mental illness (especially depression), physical deterioration, financial difficulties, marriage breakdown and lack of social and medical support.

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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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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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Gerald Stanley Case

On 9 February 2018, Gerald Stanley, a white farmer in rural Saskatchewan, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in the killing of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man. The acquittal caused great controversy but was not appealed by prosecutors. However, it led the Justin Trudeau government to abolish peremptory challenges, which allowed Stanley’s legal team to keep five Indigenous people off the all-white jury that acquitted him. In 2021, an investigation conducted by a civilian watchdog concluded that that the RCMP was insensitive and racially discriminatory toward Boushie’s mother, and that the police mishandled witnesses and evidence. A Globe and Mail investigation also found that the RCMP “destroyed records of police communications from the night Colten Boushie died.”

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Abortion in Canada

Abortion is the premature ending of a pregnancy. Inducing an abortion was a crime in Canada until 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law as unconstitutional. Since then, abortion has been legal at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy. Abortion is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the Canada Health Act. (See Health Policy.) However, access to abortion services differs across the country. Despite its legalization, abortion remains one of the most divisive political issues of our time.

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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.

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Court System of Canada

The court system of Canada forms the judicial branch of the federal, provincial and territorial governments. It is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government. The Constitution Act, 1867 provides for the establishment and operation of Canada’s judiciary, including its courts of law. It gives the federal government exclusive lawmaking power over criminal law and criminal procedure; but not over the establishment of criminal courts. It gives the provinces exclusive power over the administration of justice in each province. Canada has four levels of court: the Supreme Court of Canada; the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, as well as provincial and territorial courts of appeal; provincial and territorial superior courts; and provincial and territorial (lower) courts. Each type of court has the authority to decide specific types of cases.

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Keegstra Case

Jim Keegstra was a secondary school teacher in rural Alberta who taught anti-Semitic propaganda to his students. He was charged with a hate crime in 1984 and was found guilty in 1985. However, Keegstra launched repeated appeals arguing that the Criminal Code violated his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. The landmark case (R. v. Keegstra) tested the balance between the right to freedom of speech outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the law’s limits on hate speech stipulated in the Criminal Code. The case came before the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990 and 1996. The Court ultimately ruled against Keegstra by deciding that Canada’s hate laws imposed a “reasonable limit” on a person’s freedom of expression.

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Canadian Bill of Rights

The Canadian Bill of Rights was the country’s first federal law to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was considered groundbreaking when it was enacted by the government of John Diefenbaker in 1960. But it proved too limited and ineffective, mainly because it applies only to federal statutes and not provincial ones. Many judges regarded it as a mere interpretive aid. The bill was cited in 35 cases between 1960 and 1982; thirty were rejected by the courts. Though it is still in effect, the Bill of Rights was superseded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.