The Criminal Code of Canada is the federal legislation which is at the heart of Canada’s criminal justice system. The Criminal Code creates the majority of true criminal offences and sets out the procedure for most aspects of the judicial process. Its official long title is “An Act respecting the criminal law” (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended).

The Criminal Code was first enacted in July 1892.

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 breathalyzertests 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.

The full text of the Criminal Code can be found at the Justice Canada website.