What is the Criminal Code?: The Criminal Code is a 1,226 page-long statue that codifies most criminal law across the nation. It lists the conduct that constitutes a crime, the punishment that should be given upon conviction and some possible defences. The Code was established in 1892 and has undergone frequent changes since to reflect changes in societal values.
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What is the Criminal Code?
The Criminal Code is a law codifying most criminal offences in Canada. Its official name is An Act Respecting the Criminal Law, which is updated to reflect changing societal values. It strives to bring consistency to how criminal law is applied across Canada and to make the judicial system more accessible to laypeople.
According to information from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (Part I Understanding Criminal Law In Canada,) the Supreme Court of Canada has noted that “our system of criminal justice is based on the punishment of conduct that is contrary to the fundamental values of society, as statutorily enshrined in the Criminal Code and similar statutes.” The Court added, “Our criminal law is also a system of values … judicial sentences should also be imposed in a manner which positively instills the basic set of communal values shared by all Canadians as expressed by the Criminal Code.”
What does the Code try to achieve?
The Code has five major functions:
to define conduct that constitutes a criminal offence;
to set out rules on how people, corporations or other organization can be found guilty of crimes;
to establish some defences that can raised with a charge;
to state what degree of punishment that may be imposed on someone convicted of an offence; and
To describe the powers and procedures to be followed for investigation and prosecution of an offence.
Why is it called a Code?
This Act of Parliament is called a code because it codifies criminal law in Canada in a central place, similar to a reference text. In legal terms, codification involved collecting and restating the law in certain areas, usually by subject.
History of the Code
The Criminal Code was made law in 1892 by Parliament in accordance with section 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867, which gives the federal government the power to make criminal laws in Canada.
Before the Code was enacted, criminal law in this country was a mixture of common and statute law from Britain, along with statute law of the individual provinces and federal legislation since Confederation. In 1890, the Attorney General of Canada tasked a committee with drafting a unified code. On March 8, 1892, Bill 7, The Criminal Code was introduced into Parliament. It brought together much of the existing law across the nation into an orderly system. It did not purport to reduce all the criminal law in Canada into one comprehensive document, as it would still be necessary to refer to the common law. As well, many previously enacted federal statutes were listed in a schedule to the Bill.
The Bill was proclaimed in force on July 1, 1893. The criminal law in Canada then consisted primarily of the Criminal Code and federal legislation preserved in the schedule to the Code. It also consisted of the common law of each province, except where the common law had been altered by federal legislation. Also, any imperial criminal statutes that had not been superseded by Canadian legislation remained in force.
In 1947, the government appointed a Royal Commission to revise the Code, which came into force in 1955. Changes included abolishing all common law offences, offences under Imperial acts and offences under pre-Confederation acts.
Other updates to the Code have happened since then to reflect societal values. For example, laws against vagrancy and anal intercourse have been removed, while new legislation about sharing intimate photos online has been added.
Canadian Laws Found Elsewhere
While the Criminal Code encompasses the majority of the criminal law in Canada, other federal criminal laws can be found in statutes such as the Firearms Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
How large is the Code?
It is more than 300,000 words, or 1,226 pages long, and is available in four formats: HTLM, Braille, XML, PDF. It can be found online or at public or law libraries.