Criminal Law

In Canada, criminal law prohibits all acts that are contrary to the fundamental values of our society. Criminal offences are set out in the Criminal Code.

Maison Secours aux Femmes helps women who are victims of conjugal violence to recognize the criminal offences that they experience and to defend their rights. Shelter advocates provide them with information and support in the legal process.

Criminal Offences in a Conjugal Relationship

Many forms of conjugal violence are recognized by law as criminal offences. Here are some examples:

  • Assault (physical violence)
  • Threats (threats to physical integrity, intimidation, etc.)
  • Harassment (stalking, harassing phone calls, etc.)
  • Kidnapping and forcible confinement
  • Breaking and entering
  • Sexual assault
  • Theft of property or money
  • Extorsion

Criminal offences are punishable by law.

Legal Proceedings

A woman who is a victim of a criminal offence can file a complaint with the police against their partner or ex-partner. A complaint may also be filed by a third party (a family member, close friend or neighbour, etc.).

The complaint is the starting point central to any criminal proceedings. Once filed, it cannot be changed. Therefore, it is important to take the time to write it. The shelter advocates at Maison Secours aux Femmes can help victims draft and file their complaint.

Once the police receive a complaint, they conduct their investigation. If there is sufficient evidence, they send the file to the criminal and penal prosecutions attorney, who authorizes or rejects the proceedings.

If the proceedings are authorized, the alleged offender is officially accused and is required to plead guilty or not guilty.

During the trial, lawyers for the prosecution and those for the defence take turns presenting their evidence. This is when the witnesses speak. Each party then tries to convince the judge that the accused is guilty or innocent.

In Canada, the accused is “presumed innocent” throughout the trial until they are declared guilty.

At the end of the trial, the judge renders their decision and imposes a sentence, as the case may be.

Legal interpretation and translation services are available to help women who are not proficient in the language used by the court, so that they can follow and participate in the trial.

In a criminal trial, it is not the victim, but rather the government who prosecutes the accused on behalf of Canadian society. The victim is the main witness.

Apply for an “810”

In some cases, conjugal violence continues after the couple separates. A woman who feels that her life is in danger can ask a judge to order her ex-spouse to sign a peace bond, which is a promise to keep the peace. It is also called an “810” because that is the number of the section of the Criminal Code that it refers to.

An “810” may be ordered even if no crime has been committed. In such cases, the judge must be convinced that the woman who requests it has legitimate reasons to fear that her ex-spouse will harm her.

The “810” forces the person concerned to comply with certain conditions. For example, it may prohibit him from having any contact with his ex-partner.

It is ordered for a maximum of 12 months. However, if the victim still has reasons to fear for her safety, she can apply for it again.

This page provides general information on the law in force in Quebec and the available resources. Under no circumstances does it constitute legal advice. For more information, please feel free to contact us or consult a lawyer.