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The Essentials to Canadian Criminal Law Self-Defence and Duress

The Essentials to Canadian Criminal Law Self-Defence and Duress

In Canadian law for crime, defenses are very important to decide if someone should be made responsible for what they did. Defenses give legal reasons why actions that normally would be a crime might not be punished as one. Three common defenses recognized in Canadian law are self-defense, duress, and necessity. Each of these defenses has its own purpose and applies only in particular situations, giving people a chance to avoid criminal responsibility sometimes.


Self-defense is a basic rule in Canadian criminal law letting people protect themselves or others from danger. Section 34 of the Criminal Code of Canada says a person can use force, even deadly force, if they think it is needed to defend themselves or someone else from threats that will happen soon and illegally. They must have good reason to believe this. The force needed should match the level of danger seen, and it must be used only when there are no other good options left.

For instance, if someone is attacked and they have a good reason to think their life or safety is in serious danger right away, they can use force that seems fair to protect themselves. Canadian courts look very closely at what happened when the force was used. They check things like how bad the threat was, how big and strong both people are, and any past violent behavior between them.


Duress is another defense allowed under Canadian criminal law, giving people a chance to say they did something illegal because someone forced or threatened them with immediate harm. As written in Section 17 of the Criminal Code, a person might be found not guilty if they can show that they committed the crime because of duress or threats that made them scared for their own safety or for someone close to them.

To successfully use the defense of duress, a person accused must show threats were immediate, very serious and could not be avoided. This means they had no other good option but to do crime. But, this defense does not work for some big crimes like murder or trying to murder when a person joined in on purpose.

Application and Limitations

While these defenses give significant protections to people facing criminal charges, using them in court needs careful thought about each case’s particular details. Judges and juries look at the evidence given and decide if what the accused did was right based on self-defense, duress, or necessity rules. It is very important for people who are accused of crimes to get help from a skilled criminal lawyer. These lawyers can look at their case, find the best way to defend them, and speak for them in court.


Necessity is not used often but still known as a defense in Canadian criminal law. It lets people say they committed a crime to stop something worse from happening. This defense comes from the idea that sometimes, breaking the law can be okay if it’s needed to avoid bigger harm which couldn’t have been predicted or stopped any other way.

For example, if a person goes on private property to save a child stuck in a burning building and cannot wait for permission or legal okay, they might use defense of necessity. In Canada courts look at a few things: Was harm very close? Were there other ways instead of breaking the law? And was harm caused by breaking the law smaller than harm avoided?

In conclusion, defenses like self-defense, duress, and necessity are very important in Canadian criminal law because they let people explain their actions when certain situations happen. These legal defenses support ideas of justice and fairness so that people don’t get punished unfairly for things done to protect themselves or under pressure from serious threats. Knowing these defenses and how to use them is very important for moving through the complicated Canadian criminal justice system well.