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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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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Elizabeth Fry Society

The Elizabeth Fry Society is a not-for-profit social service agency that provides support for women and girls involved in the Canadian justice system. The Society provides a range of services to women who are criminalized and to women who are at risk of being criminalized. It works to reduce the impact of criminalization, to provide equal opportunities for women in the justice system and to empower marginalized women.

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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.

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Albert Johnson, “The Mad Trapper of Rat River”

Albert Johnson, also known as the “Mad Trapper,” outlaw (born circa 1890–1900, place of birth unknown; died 17 February 1932 in Yukon). On 31 December 1931, an RCMP constable investigating a complaint about traplines was shot and seriously wounded by a trapper living west of Fort McPherson, NT. The ensuing manhunt — one of the largest in Canadian history — lasted 48 days and covered 240 km in temperatures averaging -40°C. Before it was over, a second policeman was badly wounded and another killed. The killer, tentatively but never positively identified as Albert Johnson, was so skilled at survival that the police had to employ bush pilot Wilfrid “Wop” May to track him. The Trapper’s extraordinary flight from the police across sub-Arctic terrain in the dead of winter captured the attention of the nation and earned him the title “The Mad Trapper of Rat River.” No motive for Johnson’s crimes has ever been established, and his identity remains a mystery.

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

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Judiciary in Canada

The judiciary is, collectively, the judges of the courts of law. It is the branch of government in which judicial power is vested. It is independent of the legislative and executive branches. Judges are public officers appointed to preside in a court of justice, to interpret and apply the laws of Canada. They are responsible for adjudicating personal, sensitive, delicate, and emotional disputes; and for resolving major social, economic, and political issues that arise within a legal context. As such, the judiciary helps mold the social fabric governing daily life.

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