Canadian Photography Laws » The Laws » Federal Law » Criminal Code
The Criminal Code contains the bulk of Canada’s common-sense criminal laws. There are very few laws in the Code that specifically relate to photography, however, it contains a lot of laws that you could break in order to take photos, or while taking photos.
There are way too many things that are included in the Criminal Code that are just common sense to list here. If you are not familiar with the contents of the Criminal Code of Canada, it may be worth your time to read through the section titles to give you an idea of what the Criminal Code of Canada covers. In the References section at the bottom, you can find a link to the Criminal Code table of contents.
The following is a sample of the laws within the Criminal Code which you could run into while taking photos:
In addition to trespassing, which is a Provincial law, this Federal law covers “prowling” at night on private property. Do not loiter on another person’s property, particularly near a house, at night.Criminal Code of Canada, 177.: ("Disorderly Conduct")
Every one who, without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on him, loiters or prowls at night on the property of another person near a dwelling-house situated on that property is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
You can not take photos of people who are in circumstances where they believe that they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, for example, a bathroom. This generally extends to include a person inside their own home, or anywhere where they have reason to believe is a private place.Criminal Code of Canada, 162. (1): ("Criminal Voyeurism")
Every one commits an offence who, surreptitiously, observes - including by mechanical or electronic means - or makes a visual recording of a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy
Do not break into, or enter, a house, building, car, or any other property which you do not own. Do not carry tools commonly used for break-ins.
Although Breaking and Entering requires proof of intent to commit an offence, it does carry a hefty penalty, and few people know of this requirement.Criminal Code of Canada, 348. (1): ("Breaking and Entering")
Every one who
(a) breaks and enters a place with intent to commit an indictable offence therein,
(b) breaks and enters a place and commits an indictable offence therein, or
(c) breaks out of a place after(i) committing an indictable offence therein, or
(ii) entering the place with intent to commit an indictable offence therein,
(d) if the offence is committed in relation to a dwelling-house, of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life, and
(e) if the offence is committed in relation to a place other than a dwelling-house, of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Criminal Code of Canada, 351. (1): ("Breaking and Entering")
(1) Every one who, without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on them, has in their possession any instrument suitable for the purpose of breaking into any place, motor vehicle, vault or safe under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the instrument has been used or is or was intended to be used for such a purpose,
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Do not tell people you are someone whom you are not, and do not deceive anyone. This includes use of props, uniforms, and anything else used to deceive another person.Criminal Code of Canada, 380. (1): ("Fraud")
Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of this Act, defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service,
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding fourteen years, where the subject-matter of the offence is a testamentary instrument or the value of the subject-matter of the offence exceeds five thousand dollars; or
(b) is guilty
(i) of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or
(ii) of an offence punishable on summary conviction,
where the value of the subject-matter of the offence does not exceed five thousand dollars.
Do not be cruel to animals, harm or injure them, or cause them to be harmed or injured. This includes baiting animals.Criminal Code of Canada, 345.1. (1): ("Cruelty to Animals")
Every one commits an offence who
(a) wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird;
(b) in any manner encourages, aids or assists at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds;
(c) wilfully, without reasonable excuse, administers a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to a domestic animal or bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is kept in captivity or, being the owner of such an animal or a bird, wilfully permits a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to be administered to it;
You cannot threaten to (or actually do) harm to someone else, or their property.
Likewise, nobody can threaten to break or destroy your camera, lenses, storage cards, film, other property, nor can they threaten you with physical harm. Nobody can actually destroy your property, forcibly delete photos, expose your film, or harm you.Criminal Code of Canada, 264.1 (1) ("Assault"):
Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat
(a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person;
(b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property;
Criminal Code of Canada, 430 ("Mischief"):
Every one commits mischief who wilfully
(a) destroys or damages property;
(b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;
(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.
If you photographed a crime, police may want your photos to use as evidence.
This should result in the police asking your permission to take your photos into evidence, however, if the police have reason to believe that you intend to destroy or alter the photos, or disappear, they can seize them without a warrant, if needed. See also a refresher bulletin by the BC Civil Liberties union in the references section below.Criminal Code of Canada, 487.11:
A peace officer, or a public officer who has been appointed or designated to administer or enforce any federal or provincial law and whose duties include the enforcement of this or any other Act of Parliament, may, in the course of his or her duties, exercise any of the powers described in subsection 487(1) or 492.1(1) without a warrant if the conditions for obtaining a warrant exist but by reason of exigent circumstances it would be impracticable to obtain a warrant.
Harassing people to get photos of them is illegal. This includes activities like following or stalking them, repeatedly taking photos or badgering them, their family or friends.Criminal Code of Canada, 264. (1):
No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.
(2) The conduct mentioned in subsection (1) consists of
(a) repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
(b) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
(c) besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
(d) engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.
If someone believes you have committed a crime, they have the right to arrest you.Criminal Code of Canada, 494.
(1) Any one may arrest without warrant
(a) a person whom he finds committing an indictable offence; or
(b) a person who, on reasonable grounds, he believes
(i) has committed a criminal offence, and
(ii) is escaping from and freshly pursued by persons who have lawful authority to arrest that person.
(2) Any one who is
(a) the owner or a person in lawful possession of property, or
(b) a person authorized by the owner or by a person in lawful possession of property,
may arrest without warrant a person whom he finds committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property.
(3) Any one other than a peace officer who arrests a person without warrant shall forthwith deliver the person to a peace officer.
- Criminal Code of Canada
- Note: This site may redirect new visitors away from the page that they request the first time they visit. If this happens to you, just click on this link again to open the correct page.
- Securing Evidence Refresher Bulletin (45Kb PDF) published by the BC Civil Liberties Union (Local Mirror).