section 2


Stealing is defined in the Criminal Code by reference to section 322 which contains the definition of the term theft. The definition is relatively broad and has many facets. The basic and simplified definition of stealing is when a person takes another persons property with the intent to deprive them of it.


2. In this Act, "steal" means to commit theft;


The definition of the term "steal" as contained at section 2 of the Criminal Code, equates the word to the term "theft", which is found at section 322. In that section, the basic definition of theft prescribes that theft is commited when a person fraudulently and without colour of right takes, converts anything with intent to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it. Moreover, theft can be committed if a person, without color of right pledges the item or deposits it as security. Theft may also be committed by two alternative methods. If an arrangement is made such that the owner of property parts with it "...under a condition with respect to its return that the person who parts with it may be unable to perform." And further, theft is completed when a person " with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored in the condition in which it was at the time it was taken or converted." The definition of theft (and thus the definition of steal) is sufficiently broad to cover almost any degree of deprivation of property, concerning almost any degree of ownership, covering tangible or intangible property.


Section 2 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides a clear and concise definition of the term "steal," which is central to the offense of theft. As per this section, steal means to commit theft, thereby establishing a close link between the two terms. The definition of "steal" is crucial because it helps in determining the scope and limits of the offense, and decides whether an individual's actions fall under the ambit of theft or not. The word "steal" fundamentally means to take something without the owner's consent or permission and to deprive them of that property permanently or temporarily. As per section 322 of the Criminal Code of Canada, theft involves three primary elements- the taking of someone else's property, with the intention of depriving them of that property permanently and without their consent. Hence, the term "steal" encapsulates all of these elements and forms the crux of the offense. The term "steal" is further elaborated upon in subsequent sections of the Criminal Code, which outlines various degrees of the offense based on the value of the property stolen, whether it was committed with violence or threats of violence, or if it was committed against a person's employer. The section also goes on to emphasize that intent is a crucial factor in determining whether an act constitutes theft. In Canada, theft is a serious offense that can result in severe consequences if convicted. Depending on the degree of theft, offenders can face imprisonment for up to ten years, and a criminal record can severely impact their future prospects in terms of employment opportunities, travel, and other aspects of life. It is, therefore, critical to have a clear and concise definition of the term "steal" to ensure that the law is applied fairly and consistently. In conclusion, the definition of "steal" in section 2 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides an essential framework that outlines what constitutes theft. It is a crucial component of the criminal justice system and helps in determining the scope and limits of the offense. The clarity and precision of this definition contribute to the fairness and consistency of the law, ensuring that offenders are held accountable and victims receive justice.


In prosecutions involving stealing, the basic defences would include "identity." Can they prove that the person who stole the property is the accused? In cases where the accused is not witnessed stealing the property, but found at a time later in possession of the property, the Crown will likely cite the "doctrine of recent possession", which states that the court may make a rebuttable inference that a person in possession of stolen propery is the person who stole it. The strength of the inference will be proportionate to the degree of uniqueness of the property in question, and the length of time that has passed. For example, being found in possession of a generic pen, ten days after an alleged theft, is not likely to support a strong inference of theft under the doctrine of recent possession. In that case, the pen is generic and there are thousands of other duplicate pens in the world, and further, a full ten days has passed since the alleged theft. In contrast, a person found in posseion of a rare motor vehicle, bearing a specific VIN number, hours after the vehicle was reported stolen, will support a strong inference that they are the person who stole it. The item is highly specific, and there is little risk that the item itself is being mis-identified, unlike the generic pen. Similarly, the short passage of time allows the Court a stronger inference. In all cases, the presumption remains rebuttable with a proper evidentiary foundation. An alternative approach would be to argue color-of-right. This defence would typically be mounted in instances of joint ownership of property, or situations where ownership is disputed. For example, to parties claiming ownership of the same generic pen, may each believe the pen to be theirs, but one of them will be honestly mistaken. In such a case, one party may indeed have the color-of-right to possess the pen, whereas the other has simply made an honest mistake, and thus lacks the mens rea to sustain a conviction for theft.



What is the difference between robbery and theft?


A robbery is a theft with violence or threats of violence. A mere theft may be perpetrated without any violence, by stealing an object surreptitiously, for example.


Is it still theft if I am only temporarily borrowing a person's property without their permission?


Yes. Pursuant to section 322, a theft is committed when a person deprives another of their property, whether "temporarily" or "absolutely." Thus, temporarily "borrowing" property, without the owner's permission is still theft.


Can a person be convicted of stealing bitcoin?


Yes. The definition of theft contained at section 322 of the Criminal Code includes theft of "animate or inanimate" objects. In the case of bitcoin, this would typically constitute an "inanimate" item, but would nonetheless be considered theft if a person took another's bitcoin without consent or color of right.


The Supreme Court analyses the definition of "theft" as it relates to the offence of "take motor vehicle without consent" to determine whether the double jeopardy principle applies, or whether the two offences constitute separate delicts for the purposes of a criminal prosecution.
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal considers the definition of stealing as it relates to robbery in contrast to stealing as it relates to mere theft. At paragraph 7, the Court states: "From these definitions and the jurisprudence which has considered them, one sees that in simplistic terms the difference between robbery and theft is that robbery is committed by confronting and intimidating the person whose property is taken, whereas theft is committed without violence or threats of violence, and often occurs secretly, such that the victim is left unaware of being relieved of their property."
The County Court of Halifax delivers a historical and academic treatise on the definitions of stealing, theft and robbery as it pertains to criminal prosecutions. This case is a delightful read and provides a thorough primer on the mens rea required to constitute stealing.
The Ontario Court of Appeal considers the appropriate jury instructions concerning the criminal offence of theft.
A prosecution and acquittal of an accused involving an alleged theft of bitcoin, coupled with alleged violence in the form of an assault, constituting an alleged robbery. The case is notable in its treatment of bitcoin as the subject matter of the alleged theft.