If you have an anger problem, see Overcoming Anger!

Any type of intentional and unwanted force applied to another person constitutes assault under section 265 of the Criminal Code. This section could be used for the most serious to the less serious forms of assault. A simple nudge is an assault and battery.

Spousal Abuse

Some 70 Canadian women die at the hands of their male partner each year.

Carole Curtis wrote, in 1999:

"More than half of all women murdered in Canada are killed by a spouse or intimate partner."

So many more are physically or emotionally abused.

A 1998 study suggest that 29% of Canadian women who have ever married or have lived in a common law relationship had been subjected to sexual or physical violence from a current or former partner.

The abuse usually comes in waves as follows: (1) a tension building phase, (2) the act(s) of violence, (3) a lovey-dovey phase.

Family ViolenceAny type of forced sex constitutes sexual assault under the Criminal Code of Canada including between married partners. The Criminal Code specifically says that husband and wife can be charged with the crime of assault or sexual assault whether they were living together or not.

Any type of intentional and unwanted force applied to another person constitutes assault under §265 of the Criminal Code. This section could be used for the most serious to the less serious forms of assault. A simple nudge is an assault.

The Criminal Code also prohibits (and more severely punishes) other forms of assault classified as assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault (where a wound or disfigurement results from the assault or the life of the victim was endangered).

Sexual assault is a separate crime, as is sexual assault with a weapon, sexual assault facilitated by threatening a third party, and sexual assault which causes bodily harm. The Criminal Code also covers, and more severely punishes, aggravated sexual assault which, as above, includes situations where a wound or disfigurement results from the assault or the life of the victim was endangered.

The Criminal Code now has anti-stalking protection, known as "criminal harassment" and punishes any person who recklessly harasses another person by engaging in conduct causing that person to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

You don't have to wait until you are assaulted to avail yourself of the provisions of the Criminal Code. Preventative justice is available in the form of §810 which allows you to go before a provincial court judge and request a "keep the peace" promise on the part of the aggressor (peace bond). It is a crime in and of itself to refuse to sign a peace bond ordered by the court, or to disobey an existing bond.

Some provinces have unique laws to deal with family violence. For example, Manitoba has a special court set up to deal with family violence. Saskatchewan has new legislation which enhances the powers of justices of the peace to judicially intervene instantly in family violence cases.

The British Columbia Family Relations Act, at §37 and §126 state that:

"On application, a court may ... make an order restraining any person from molesting, annoying, harassing, communicating or attempting to molest, annoy, harass or communicate with the applicant or a child in the lawful custody of the applicant....

"A court may, on application, order that, while the spouses continue to live separate and apart, one spouse must not enter premises while the premises are occupied by the other spouse or a child in the custody of the other spouse .... whether or not the spouse against whom the order is made owns or has a right to possession of the premises."

temper douserThe Divorce Act allows for divorce on the grounds of mental or physical cruelty, although such conduct will have no bearing on the amount of support that a victim can claim and it will only affect custody or visitation rights if it can be shown to affect the ability to parent.

Most provinces have special legislation that allows the custodial parent and children to continue possession of the family home no matter who owns it. In Ontario, incidence of violence is a factor in deciding these applications in favour of the victim-parent.

Tort remedies always exist above and beyond criminal or statutory law remedies. Assault and battery is a longstanding tort for which damages can be sought against the perpetrator. Note that while criminal remedies seek to address the perpetrator's conduct, civil remedies under tort seek to financially compensate the victim for damages suffered.

Child Abuse

Most of the above Criminal Code offences are also fully available remedies in cases of child abuse. The Code also has child-specific offences.

  • Incest is a serious offence under the Criminal Code.
  • The Code prohibits sexual interference with children which includes invitation for sexual touching or sexual exploitation of children.
  • The Criminal Code requires all parents to provide their children under the age of 16 with the necessaries of life.
  • Corporal punishment is a grey zone. The Criminal Code (§43) still permits corporal punishment upon children by school teachers or parents who are: "... justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances." In 2004, Canada's Supreme Court upheld this section of the Code (Canadian Foundation for Children).
  • The Code protects children from humiliating and frightening court appearances by allowing them to testify against their aggressor by video or from behind a screen. They can still be cross-examined directly by the victim's lawyer but they do not have to see their aggressor during their testimony in sexual abuse cases.
  • Special child protection laws exist in each province allowing the social services or health ministries to intervene and to remove a child from a dangerous home situation, where they are being subjected to abuse or where they are not being cared for to the point of endangerment to their well-being. In these cases, children can be removed from their home but a judge must decide on the continued wardship of the child at the earliest opportunity.

As a final note, it should be noted here also that tort actions are available to child abuse victims. There a number of cases on record which have confirmed substantial awards to incest or other child sexual abuse victims.