Corporate Criminal Liability - Discussion Paper, March 2002


Under the law as it currently applies in Canada, a corporation may be found to be liable for a Criminal Code offence but it has been largely left to the common law, as developed through the courts, to determine the nature and scope of this liability. The Criminal Code contains no specific provision encompassing corporate criminal liability.

A recent trend towards codification of the law in this area has been evident in several common law jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom and Australia and, to some extent, the United States. The significant differences in approach adopted by each of these countries in modernizing their laws illustrate the complexity of the legal and policy issues in this area.

There is a growing interest in law reform in Canada as well. If major changes to the law are to be pursued, then a made-in-Canada law is needed, one that addresses the functioning of corporations in the Canadian context and that advances the goals of our criminal justice system, that is, deterrence, denunciation, rehabilitation, reparation and acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and to the community by criminal acts.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons will be holding hearings on this subject. The hearings are expected to start in May. The Department of Justice has prepared this discussion paper to assist Canadians and the Standing Committee in their examination of the issues and consideration of viable legislative responses.

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