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June 15, 2017

Amendments to the Criminal Code: Bill C-51

On June 6th, 2017 the Federal Justice Minister introduced Bill C-51 in the House of Commons, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act.  The Bill proposes amendments to provisions of the Criminal Code. For example, the Bill would remove provisions that have been found to be unconstitutional such as those on abortion.  Some of the amendments will repeal “zombie laws”, meaning archaic offences that have been overturned by the courts but remain in the Criminal Code such as provoking someone to duel. 

Another of the amendments proposed would clarify the definition of consent in the context of sexual relations by codifying common law precedents.  This is an important amendment because precedent alone does not ensure its application by judges.  The proposed amendment in Bill C-51 would ensure that the Criminal Code reflects the common law precedent established in the Supreme Court of Canada case, R v JA (2001), which held that consent for sexual relations requires “ongoing, conscious and present consent.”  
Bill C-51 will receive its second reading at the next sitting of the House.