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Law of Self Defence in Canada

Bill C-26, the Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act, came into force on March 11, 2013. Toronto criminal lawyers will find that the legislation replaces the old Criminal Code provisions on self-defence and defence of property with new and reformed defences.
The amended defence of the person in s. 34 provides a single and simple framework within which to assess all claims of self-defence. With the old law there were multiple distinct versions of self-defence and defence of property, each of which triggered a defence claim on slightly different circumstances. S. 34 now contains the following three essential elements:

  1. A reasonable perception of force or a threat of force against the accused or another person [subjective perception of the accused, objectively verified];
  2. A defensive purpose for the accused’s act [accused’s subjective state of mind]; AND
  3. An objective determination of the reasonableness of the accused’s act

Furthermore, S 34(2) of the Criminal Code provides a list of nine specified factors to be considered by the court in determining whether the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances. This includes but is not limited to the nature of the force or threat, the persons role in the incident, and the nature and proportionality of the person’s response to the use or threat of force. With the old law, these factors were determinative of whether the law of self-defence succeeded or failed, but they are now factors to be used in a assessing each case on its merits.

Toronto Criminal lawyers will need to pay close attention as the case law evolves to determine the reasonableness of the self-defence act in the circumstances. As a Toronto criminal lawyer our hope is that this new law will eliminate many of the inconsistent decisions that are currently being decided by judges across Ontario.

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