- Criminal Code of Canada
The Criminal Code or Code criminel is a law that codifies most criminal offences and procedures in Canada. Its official long title is "An Act respecting the criminal law" (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended). Section 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867 establishes criminal law as under the sole jurisdiction of the federal Parliament.
The Criminal Code contains some defences, but most are part of the common law rather than statute. Important Canadian criminal laws not forming part of the code include the Firearms Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Food and Drugs Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Contraventions Act.
The Criminal Code was first enacted in July 1892 after being a pet project of the Minister of Justice of the time, Sir John Sparrow David Thompson. It was based on a drafted code called "the Stephen Code", written by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen as part of a Royal Commission in England in 1879, and influenced by the writings of Canadian Jurist George Burbidge.
The main body of the Criminal Code is divided into the following major components:
- Part I - General
- Part II - Offences Against Public Order
- Part II.1 - Terrorism
- Part III - Firearms and Other Weapons
- Part IV - Offences Against the Administration of Law and Justice
- Part V - Sexual Offences, Public Morals and Disorderly Conduct
- Part VI - Invasion of Privacy
- Part VII - Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting
- Part VIII - Offences Against the Person and Reputation
- Part IX - Offences Against Rights of Property
- Part X - Fraudulent Transactions Relating to Contracts and Trade
- Part XI - Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property
- Part XII - Offences Relating to Currency
- Part XII.1 - Instruments and Literature For Illicit Drug Use
- Part XII.2 - Proceeds of Crime
- Part XIII - Attempts-Conspiracies-Accessories
- Part XIV - Jurisdiction
- Part XV - Special Procedure and Powers
- Part XVI - Compelling Appearance of an Accused Before a Justice and Interim Release
- Part XVII - Language of Accused
- Part XVIII - Procedure on Preliminary Inquiry
- Part XIX - Indictable Offences-Trial Without a Jury
- Part XIX.1 - Nunavut Court of Justice
- Part XX - Procedure in Jury Trials and General Provisions
- Part XX.1 - Mental Disorder
- Part XXI - Appeals-Indictable Offences
- Part XXI.1 - Applications for Ministerial Review-Miscarriages of Justice
- Part XXII - Procuring Attendance
- Part XXIII - Sentencing
- Part XXIV - Dangerous Offenders and Long-Term Offenders
- Part XXV - Effect and Enforcement of Recognizances
- Part XXVI - Extraordinary Remedies
- Part XXVII - Summary Convictions
- Part XXVIII - Miscellaneous
The main body is followed by schedules (i.e. appendices) relating to some of the above-mentioned Parts and a series of prescribed legal forms, such as Form 5 which sets out the proper legal wording for a search warrant.
The Criminal Code has been revised numerous times, including the consolidation of federal statutes that occurred during 1955 and 1985. One of the major revisions of the code occurred with the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69, whose provisions included, among other things, the decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults, the legalization of abortion, contraception and lotteries, new gun ownership restrictions as well as the authorization of breathalyzer tests on suspected drunk drivers. The Criminal Code, in its present form, is part of the 1985 consolidated statutes with further major amendments since that year.
By means of legal challenges under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, numerous sections of the Criminal Code have been struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada as infringing on a constitutional right as defined in this 1982 constitutional document. The offending sections are usually removed altogether, or heavily qualified, when new laws are passed. In other instances, such as Section 287 regarding qualified abortions, the Canadian Parliament does not repeal (i.e. erase) the infringing section from the text of the Criminal Code and so the remaining text is simply null, void and unenforceable by the police and the criminal justice system.
Before the terrorist attack against the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the Criminal Code contained almost no specific reference to terrorism. After that event, the Canadian Parliament passed Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act (S.C. 2001, c.41) which received royal assent on December 18, 2001. This statute added an entire new component to the Criminal Code. Falling between Part II and Part III is now Part II.1 - Terrorism, which contains numerous provisions regarding the financing of terrorism, the establishment of a list of terrorist entities, the freezing of property, the forfeiture of property, and participating, facilitating, instructing and harbouring of terrorism.
Young persons, ages 12 to 17, may be charged with offences under the Criminal Code, are prosecuted in much the same way as adults under the Criminal Code, and are subject to the same laws of evidence. However, sentencing, procedure and evidence law are modified to some extent by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The youth may be taken to an adult prison after the age of 14.
- Bill C-250 - Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda)
- Criminal law in Canada
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