Dalhousie Law Journal


Canadian Criminal Code, reform, Canada, provincial offense, criminal offense, province, plea, fines, minor violations


While the Canadian Criminal Code is presently in the process of thorough going reform by the federal government, one should not lose sight of the important reforms being proposed in several Canadian provinces to the legal regimes governing provincial offences. A need for reform to provincial offence regimes is evident in relation to both substance and procedure, although the approaches to solving problems in both spheres has traditionally differed from province to province. At the level of procedure, some provinces have been content to enforce their provincial offences through the expedient of adopting by reference the procedures found in Part XVII of the federal Criminal Code for the prosecution and trial of summary conviction offences. Other provinces have established complete parallel codes for the enforcement of their own penal laws, on the theory that there is a sufficient difference in kind between provincial offences and minor criminal offences that they ought to be treated quite differently from a procedural point of view. Even those provinces which use the federal summary conviction procedures to try provincial offences have found it necessary to make exceptional, streamlined procedures for processing minor violations through systems of offence tickets and "out of court" payment of fines upon a "plea" of guilty. New proposals for a "Uniform Regulatory Offences Procedure Act" will shortly be coming forward to the Uniform Law Conference, and it will be interesting to see whether it is possible to develop a consensus around new procedures for the enforcement of provincial offences where, historically, different administrative needs and resources have given rise to very different procedural systems.

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