section 1


The Criminal Code of Canada is the predominant statute governing criminal acts across the country


An Act respecting the Criminal Law 1. This Act may be cited as the Criminal Code.


The Criminal Code is the primary statute governing criminal law in Canada. It is not, however, the only statute. Other acts of parliament exist, such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act include criminal sanctions for criminal offences. Only the Federal Government can create true criminal offences. Provincial governments cannot create a criminal offence. Despite this, a provincial offence can carry a jail term. The conviction for the provincial offence, however, will not carry with it a "criminal" conviction.


Section 1 of the Criminal Code of Canada is the opening section of the law and establishes the title of the legislation, which is the Criminal Code. This section may seem trivial, but it sets the tone for the entire law that follows it. The Criminal Code of Canada is the foundation of the criminal justice system in Canada. It provides a framework for criminal conduct and establishes the procedures for investigating, prosecuting, and punishing criminal activities. The text in this section does not refer to any specific criminal offence nor its elements. However, it provides a cue to what is expected from this law, and it is what the law aims to achieve, which is, to provide a basis for the conduct of criminal proceedings in Canada. Furthermore, this section clarifies that the Act or law may be cited as the Criminal Code. This notation provides legal professionals and the public with a clear reference to identify and refer to the law, which is a critical component of a functioning legal system. Section 1 of the Criminal Code also carries significant historical and symbolic meaning. At its core, the Criminal Code reflects Canadian society's values, moral principles, and social norms. Therefore, the Criminal Code represents a social agreement between the state and its citizens about what behaviour is acceptable and what conduct is beyond the limitations set by the law. The Criminal Code also reflects the evolution of Canadian society's values over time. The Criminal Code has undergone many significant changes and amendments since its inception, reflecting the country's changing attitudes and the social and political landscape. For example, recent amendments to the code have sought to address issues related to hate crimes, sexual assault, and Indigenous Peoples within the justice system. In conclusion, Section 1 of the Criminal Code of Canada may seem like a trivial section of the law. However, it is a crucial section that sets the tone for the legislation that follows it. The Criminal Code of Canada is the foundation of the country's criminal justice system, and it plays a central role in defining Canada's social values and moral principles. Furthermore, this section of the law is a reminder that the criminal law is essential to achieving a just and fair society.


As a criminal defence lawyer who practises exclusively in the area of Criminal Law, Paul Lewandowski is intimately familiar with the Criminal Code and its workings. Certainly there are specific sections which present more regularly, such as assault, theft, fraud, sexual assault and robbery. Despite this, a working knowledge of the entire breadth of the Code is an advantage that few lawyers possess. It is often seen that an accused person sends in their civil lawyer into criminal court, whereupon they have no understanding of the workings of the criminal system. If you are charged with a criminal offence, it is highly advisable that you seek out counsel who specialize in criminal law, and who appear regularly in criminal court.



Are all Criminal Code offences prosecuted by a Federal prosecutor?


No. Even though the Criminal Code of Canada is a Federal statute created by the Federal government, the application and prosecution of Criminal Code offences is often undertaken by provincial prosecutors. This may vary by jurisdiction. In Ottawa, the Provincial Crown's office is charged with the task of prosecution all offences under the Criminal Code, ranging from theft, to sexual assault, to murder. In contrast, all prosecutions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are undertaken by the Federal Crown's office.


Does the Criminal Code of Canada apply even in Quebec?


Yes. Unlike in the United States, the Criminal Law falls under Federal jurisdiction. Thus, the Criminal Code is applicable even in Quebec.


Is every criminal offence contained within the Criminal Code of Canada?


No. Other acts created by Federal parliament contain criminal offences. The most often used examples are the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act. However, it can accurately be said that the Criminal Code of Canada contains most of the criminal offences in Canada.


Since the Criminal Code is a Federal statute, can I have my matter transferred from Ottawa to Vancouver for my trial?


No. The prosecution of your offence will occur in the jurisdiction in which it is alleged to have occurred. In rare instances, prosecutions can be moved, but that is the exception, not the rule. In most cases, the Crown will agree to transfer a file for the purpose of effecting a guilty plea.