It is a very broad question to ask “What is a Criminal Offence in Canada?” simply because there are so many different types. However, if it is indeed a criminal offence, then you will be able to find it codified in Canadian law. There are several pieces of federal legislation that outline what constitutes a criminal offence in Canada, but we will focus only on the most common. Be aware that complete and searchable versions of these Acts are freely available on the government of Canada’s website, and several links have been provided below.

Many Canadians may not be sure if they have committed a criminal offence in Canada that would leave them with a federal criminal record.  Fortunately, Canada has clear legislation that outlines exactly what is a criminal offence in Canada. One important thing to remember is the difference between a federal offence and a provincial offence. While a federal offence will leave you with an official criminal record, a provincial offence generally will not (although a record of the criminal offence will still be left with the Local Police). To find out if your criminal offence in Canada was provincial or federal, you will want to look to the legislation.

The Criminal Code of Canada

The vast majority of criminal offences in Canada fall under the Criminal Code. If you are ever have to ask yourself “What is a Criminal Offence?”, then this legislation should be the first place to look. This piece of legislation covers nearly every federal offence in Canada including Theft, Manslaughter, Driving While Ability Impaired, Fraud, etc. It includes the definitions for these offences, as well as outlining the maximum penalties for these offences.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

If you have a criminal offence in Canada that has in any way to do with drugs or narcotics, it will likely be covered by this piece of legislation. Replacing the Narcotics Control Act in 1996, this Act contains a list of all illicit substances in Canada and ranks them into “schedules” based on their seriousness. The most common criminal offences covered by this act are Possession of a Scheduled Substance, Possession of a Scheduled Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking, and Production of a Scheduled Substance.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act

While the Youth Criminal Justice Act does not outline specific criminal offences, it does codify special sentencing options for youth as well as the circumstances upon which youth records may be kept. If you have a criminal offence in Canada that you committed as a youth, you may or may not still have a criminal record.

Other Provincial Legislation

Provincial legislation naturally varies from province to province, but all pieces of provincial legislation are similar in that a criminal offence in Canada that falls under provincial legislation will not leave a federal criminal record. The majority of provincial offences are usually relatively minor, and often consist of traffic offences such as under the British Columbia Motor Vehicles Act, or the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. These offences do  not affect your eligibility for a Record Suspension (formerly referred to as a Pardon), although they may show to the Parole Board of Canada that you have not maintained “Good Conduct”.

If you have committed a criminal offence in Canada you likely have a federal criminal record, and the only way to remove your record is by obtaining a Record Suspension. If you have a criminal offence in Canada and wish to have it removed from your record, we encourage you to contact our offices today for a free consultation.

Criminal Code

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

Youth Criminal Justice Act