Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

May 15, 2009 13:05 ET

Minister of Justice Moves to Modernize Criminal Law Procedure in Canada

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 15, 2009) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today introduced in the House of Commons an Act to Amend the Criminal Code and other federal legislation, which will modernize criminal procedure and make the justice system more efficient and effective.

"Crime is constantly evolving in Canada so it is crucial that our criminal justice system evolves with it," said Minister Nicholson. "With these amendments, our Government is taking action to help ensure the safety and security of our communities. It is the latest step in our continuing commitment to tackling crime."

Proposed amendments in the legislation include:

- Creating a new offence to help prevent individuals from fleeing a province or territory in order to avoid prosecution;

- Streamlining the identification process in police stations by allowing the fingerprinting and photographing of persons in lawful custody who have not yet been charged or convicted of specific offences;

- Improving the application procedure for search and seizure warrants by providing both peace and public officers with greater access to telewarrants;

- Enhancing the expert witness process to allow parties more time to prepare their response to expert evidence in criminal matters;

- Updating rules related to the use of "agents" (non-lawyers) in criminal proceedings, to provide the provinces with greater flexibility on this issue and ensuring better representation of accused individuals by agents; and,

- Expanding the list of permitted sports covered under the current prize fighting provisions, and updating Canada's pari-mutuel betting system.

"Our provincial and territorial partners have been instrumental in helping us identify and review a number of evolving issues in criminal law across Canada," said Minister Nicholson. "This bill will increase the effectiveness of the justice system in a number of ways, including giving peace and public officers greater access to warrants relating to search and seizure, and helping address the issue of those who evade justice by travelling to other jurisdictions."

An online version of the legislation will be available at

Backgrounder: Modernizing Criminal Procedure

Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system is an integral part of the Government of Canada's commitment to ensuring the safety and security of communities across Canada. Through continual modernization of criminal procedures, the Government of Canada is creating a justice system that can respond to changes in criminal activity and the constant evolution of technology.

The Government has worked closely with its provincial and territorial partners to create 40 legislative amendments that will reflect the changing criminal justice landscape and fill identified gaps in the law. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the Identification of Criminals Act, the Corruption of Foreign Officials Act, and the Canada Evidence Act will help ensure that Canada's laws will continue to protect Canadians.

Issues addressed by these amendments include:

Flight Offence

A new offence of "leaving the jurisdiction" would be created, to target individuals who leave a jurisdiction in violation of their bail conditions. This would create a clear deterrent to fleeing a jurisdiction and establish a record of such behaviour. Having access to this record would help prevent the release of an accused person who has in the past failed to abide by conditions to stay within a jurisdiction. As well, the onus would be placed on the accused to justify why he or she should be subsequently released on bail. In addition, more time may be made available for arranging the return of the accused to the originating jurisdiction for trial.

These amendments are the result of an initiative led by British Columbia in a federal-provincial-territorial working group and were endorsed by Ministers responsible for justice in September, 2008.

Identification of Criminals Act

The Identification of Criminals Act does not currently authorize police officers to fingerprint or photograph individuals in lawful custody until they are charged or convicted. This often results in unnecessary delays and can prolong an accused individual's stay at a police station. The proposed amendments would streamline this process by adding the authority to fingerprint and photograph an individual who is in lawful custody following an arrest, but not yet charged.


Telewarrants allow police officers to apply for search- and seizure-related warrants by providing information to a Justice of the Peace, on oath, via telephone or other means of telecommunication. This saves the travel and wait time it would take if the officer had to apply in person. Under the current system, telewarrants are only available when it is "impractical" for the officer to appear in person, and are only available for certain types of warrants. The proposed amendments would eliminate the need to satisfy the "impracticability" requirement in cases where the telewarrant request is submitted in writing. The amendments would also expand the availability of telewarrants to "public officers". These are officials who enforce federal non-Criminal Code legislation, but are not police officers.

Expert Witness Evidence

Expert evidence brought before a court is often complex and highly technical. The timeframes currently set out in the Criminal Code for the disclosure of expert reports do not necessarily allow the other parties to adequately respond to this evidence. Amendments in this bill would provide for a mandatory 10-day adjournment where notice provisions have not been followed. A discretionary adjournment may also be called in cases where notice provisions were complied with, but it is deemed that a party still had insufficient time to prepare to respond to the expert evidence.

Another amendment sets out factors that would assist the Court to make a decision whether or not to grant an adjournment or to increase or decrease the length of an adjournment. These factors would encourage to Court to take the complexities of a trial involving expert witnesses into careful consideration. If the Court refuses to grant an adjournment or reduce the period of adjournment, the amendments require the Court to provide reasons for its decision.

Use of Agents (non-lawyers)

When individuals are charged with a summary offence, i.e., a less serious offence that involves fewer procedural requirements, it is important that they have access to adequate representation. The proposed amendments would give each province the power to authorize programs and establish criteria outlining when an agent (non-lawyer) can represent a defendant charged with a summary offence. These amendments would allow different approaches depending on the maximum term of imprisonment associated with the offence, among other things. The proposed amendments would, however, allow agents to appear on behalf of defendants to seek an adjournment of summary proceedings, regardless of the maximum term of imprisonment.

Prize Fighting

Under current law, it is an offence to have any involvement in prize fighting (defined as an "encounter or fight with fists or hands") except for amateur boxing under authority of the province. Many amateur events, even those without monetary prizes, are technically included in this offence. The proposed amendments would expand the list of permitted exceptions to the prize-fighting offence so that amateur combative sports such as Judo and Karate (currently on the Olympic program) would be allowed. The amendments would also permit a province to decide whether to expand the list of sports permitted to take place within that province and authorize specific contests.

Pari-mutuel Betting System

A pari-mutuel betting system allows an organization, most commonly a horse racing association, to pool all the bets made on one event so that all individuals holding a winning ticket will share in the relevant "pot". The organization simply hosts the event and operates the betting system, so that although they keep a percentage of all bets, they remain financially disinterested in the outcome of the event. The proposed amendments, which were developed in consultation with the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA), will ensure that the legislative language is updated, and that stakeholder requests to change the manner in which "foreign pool payouts" are calculated are addressed.

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Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Darren Eke
    Press Secretary
    Department of Justice
    Media Relations