Canadian Criminal Law and the Criminal Code

Oxford University Press

Within Canadian criminal law there is reform including how the system approaches its colonial foundations. When teaching this material, I see how imperative it is that educators and scholars must also evolve in the ways in which we think about and teach criminal law. We need to include various learning modalities, pedagogies, and voices, especially if we want to continue to engage the students of today, but especially if we want to effect change.

My vision is that this text is a medium for change – to support educators to change how they teach criminal law to criminal justice and criminology students. Today’s criminal justice system may have evolved over the century, but it still retains its colonial roots and paternalistic ideology. Therefore, I believe it is imperative that we teach how our laws (and the justice system) have impacted marginalized and criminalized people, and Indigenous peoples and people of colour.

This text is purposely crafted not for law school programs and courses. This text is intentionally directed to students within criminal justice and criminology programs at the undergraduate level in post-secondary colleges and universities across Canada. The text is written in a personal voice to make it reader-friendly. The text is an introduction to criminal law – not from the perspective of a lawyer – but written in a way to support educators and to inspire students to dive into the fascinating aspects of criminal law withand case law examples, ask questions, and role play being a judge. And most importantly, it includes truthful information about our colonial justice system, and poses queries towards reconciliation.

The text is laid out in four parts and follows a path where a person charged with a criminal offence, and players they would interact with, would walk through the justice system. Part 1 is Foundations with three chapters that lay the groundwork for students to understand the overall function of the law, a brief layout of the criminal justice system players, its elements including a brief history of our law’s colonial roots, a refresher on the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as how defendants proceed through the justice system, and pre-trial procedures. Part 2 is Liability and Causation that includes two chapters to parallel the two necessary elements for a conviction to any offence: actus reus and mens rea. Each chapter includes its relevant parts – the four components of actus reus and the five components of mens rea, as well as the difference between factual and legal guilt. And both chapters provide the prosecution’s and defendant’s perspectives. Part 3 is Criminal Offences with chapters about specific offences and how the above principles are interpreted and how the above processes work. Although our Criminal Code is filled with thousands of offences, those included in this text are limited – it simply cannot include everything. Furthermore, these offences are chosen with intention because they are conventional crimes – they are most often pursued by the justice system and secondly, there are many recent cases and legislative advancements that will help us illustrate the function of the law to draw in the student. Part 4 is Trials and Sentencing which includes two chapters that take us into the courtroom exploring the defences permitted by law, the burden of proof aspects, how judges determine a disposition, and the possible punishments available in the Criminal Code. I hope you will enjoy reading and using the textbook in your classes.