criminal law 1024x853 1 Murder 163

Homicide offences are the most serious and stigmatized offences in the Criminal Code and carry the most significant penalties. A person commits homicide when he or she, directly or indirectly causes the death of a human being by any means. Homicide can be culpable or non-culpable. Culpable homicide includes murder, manslaughter, and infanticide. Non-culpable homicide is not an offence and includes accidents that were not caused by criminal negligence and self-defence. 

Convictions for culpable homicide carry lengthy penitentiary sentences. Persons convicted of murder will receive an automatic life sentence. Individuals who are over the age of sixteen and are convicted of first-degree are ineligible for parole for a minimum period of twenty-five years.  Individuals who are over the age of sixteen and are convicted of second-degree are ineligible for parole for a minimum period of ten years and a maximum period of twenty-five years. At the end of the parole ineligibility period, offenders can apply for parole, but release is not guaranteed. The Parole Board of Canada must be satisfied that the person’s release would not present an undue risk to society—the protection of society is the PBC’s paramount concern when deciding whether to grant parole.

Other homicide offences with the exception of infanticide—manslaughter, attempted murder, and accessory after the fact to murder—all carry the possibility of lifetime imprisonment, although the sentence is not automatic. Mandatory minimum sentences apply where a firearm was used in the commission of manslaughter or accessory after the fact.

Individuals charged with any homicide offence should carefully consider who they want to represent them at their trial given the serious jeopardy they face.


According to s. 229 of the Criminal Code, murder occurs where a person who causes the death of another human being either:

  • Means to cause the other person’s death; or
  • Means to cause the other person bodily harm that he or she knows is likely to cause death and is reckless as to whether death ensues

It is also murder where:

  • Someone intends to kill one person and accidentally or mistakenly kills another person; and
  • A person, acting for an unlawful purpose, does something that is likely to cause death and does in fact, cause death, even if the person wanted to achieve their unlawful purpose without causing death or bodily harm to another person

Murder is first degree when:

  • It is planned and deliberate;
  • It is committed pursuant to a monetary arrangement (i.e. a contracted murder);
  • The victim is a police officer, warden, or correctional officer acting in the course of their duties (even if the murder was not planned and deliberate); or
  • The murder was not planned or deliberate but the death was caused while the accused was committing or attempting to commit certain specified offences such as sexual assault, kidnapping or forcible confinement, criminal harassment, or terrorist activity

All other murder is second degree murder. Second degree murder captures situations where a homicide was committed intentionally but was not planned.

The difference between murder and manslaughter is the accused’s person intent. Manslaughter captures situations where the accused person does not have the necessary intent for murder. Instead, the person is culpable by virtue of criminal negligence, an unlawful act or provocation.

Yes, however, unlike with the majority of charges under the Criminal Code, individuals charged with murder do not have an automatic right to a bail hearing in the Ontario Court of Justice. Instead, individuals charged with murder must make an application to the Superior Court of Justice for a hearing. Individuals charged with murder will typically only be released on very strict bail plans with a high level of supervision.

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