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Murder in Canada is defined as a culpable homicide with specific intentions. It is defined by the Criminal Code, a statute passed by the Parliament of Canada and which applies uniformly across Canada.


Types of culpable homicideEdit

Murder is a sub-category of culpable homicide which is defined as causing the death of a human being,

  • By means of an unlawful act;
  • By criminal negligence;
  • By causing that human being, by threats or fear of violence or by deception, to do anything that causes his death; or
  • By wilfully frightening that human being, in the case of a child or sick person.
    — Criminal Code, s 222.[1]

In addition, depending on the type of homicide offence, there may be different degrees of causation that the Crown is required to prove. The general test for causation in all homicide offences is a significant contributing cause of the victim's death. If the jury finds that the accused committed the murder in the context of one of the criteria listed for first degree murder (under s. 231(5)), then the jury must be satisfied the accused was a substantial cause of the victim's death and had planned the act before performing it (pre-meditated) before finding the accused guilty of first degree murder.[2]


Manslaughter is any culpable homicide which is not murder or infanticide.[3]


Infanticide is the killing of a newly-born child by its mother where the mother's mind was disturbed as a result of giving birth or of consequent lactation.[4]


Murder occurs

  • (a) where the person who causes the death of a human being
  • (i) means to cause his/her death, or
  • (ii) means to cause him/her bodily harm that he knows is likely to cause his/her death, and is reckless whether death ensues or not;
  • (b) where a person, meaning to cause death to a human being or meaning to cause him/her bodily harm that he/she knows is likely to cause his death, and being reckless whether death ensues or not, by accident or mistake causes death to another human being, notwithstanding that he/she does not mean to cause death or bodily harm to that human being; or
  • (c) where a person, for an unlawful object, does anything that he knows or ought to know is likely to cause death, and thereby causes death to a human being, notwithstanding that he desires to effect his object without causing death or bodily harm to any human being.[1]

In Canada, murder is classified as either first or second degree:[5]

Type of murder Nature
First degree was planned and deliberate
was contracted
was committed against an identified peace officer
while committing or attempting to commit the hijacking of an aircraft
while committing or attempting to commit sexual assault
while committing or attempting to commit sexual assault with a weapon
while committing or attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault
while committing or attempting to commit kidnapping and forcible confinement
during a hostage taking
while committing criminal harassment
was committed during terrorist activity
while using explosives in association with a criminal organization
while committing intimidation.
Second degree any murder which is not first degree murder


The mandatory sentence for any adult (or youth sentenced as an adult) convicted of murder in Canada is a life sentence, with various time periods before a person may apply for parole.[6] The ability to apply for parole does not mean parole is granted.

Offence Circumstances Parole ineligible period
First degree murder In general 25 years
Where the offender was 16 or 17 years old at time of the offence 10 years
Where the offender was 14 or 15 years old at time of the offence 5–7 years
Second degree murder In general 10–25 years
Committed by an offender previously convicted of murder 25 years
Where the offender was 16 or 17 years old at time of the offence 7 years

For multiple murder offences committed after December 2, 2011, a court may, after considering any jury recommendation, impose consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for each murder. While the provision is not mandatory, this means, for example, that an individual convicted of three counts of first degree murder could face life with no parole for 75 years – or 25 years for each conviction. This provision has been used in several cases where parole ineligibility periods have been extended beyond 25 years; in four cases to 75 years prior to parole eligibility.

See also: Life imprisonment in Canada

For offences committed prior to December 2, 2011, someone guilty of a single murder could have his/her non-parole period reduced to no less than 15 years under the Faint hope clause. However, this provision is not available for offences committed after that date.

In cases of second-degree murder and within the parameters set under the law, the sentencing judge has the discretion to set the date for parole eligibility after considering recommendations from both the Crown and the defence, as well as any recommendation that a jury in the case may choose to make.

The maximum penalty for manslaughter is imprisonment for life. A mandatory minimum penalty (ranging from 4 to 7 years depending on the circumstances) only applies when the offence is committed with a firearm. Nevertheless, there is also a provision under which a person convicted of a "serious personal injury offence" meeting the statutory criteria may be declared a "dangerous offender". A dangerous offender may be sentenced for an indeterminate period of imprisonment and is eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 7 years. An offender convicted of murder is ineligible to be declared a dangerous offender for that same homicide (since a mandatory life sentence already applies).

A youth (12 to 17 years) who is not sentenced as an adult does not face a life sentence. Instead, if convicted of first degree murder, they must serve a maximum sentence of 10 years, with a maximum of 6 of those years spent in custody. If convicted of second degree murder, they must serve a maximum of 7 years, with a maximum of 4 of those years spent in custody.[7]

See alsoEdit