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Spiro: Narrowing the Gap between Regulatory and Criminal Offences in Canada

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Peter S. Spiro (University of Toronto – Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation, School of Public Policy and Governance) has posted “Narrowing the Gap between Regulatory and Criminal Offences in Canada.”

The abstract is as follows:

Regulatory offences enacted in provincial statutes represent a large part of the law that is confronted by citizens, and a significant proportion of the cases prosecuted in court. There is a tendency to view them as being distinctly different and less serious than criminal offences that are embodied in the Criminal Code. This paper argues that it is preferable to view them as running along a continuum. The same actus reus can represent a minor infraction that is properly prosecuted as a strict liability offence with a modest fine, while in other instances it rises to the level of an act that causes serious harm and is morally culpable. The statutory regime should be designed to provide the proper guidance so that, where appropriate, prosecutors look for mens rea and seek larger penalties with an aim of deterrence similar to that of criminal offences. A number of examples suggest that the failure of legislation to clearly address these issues has undermined enforcement efforts and obscured the seriousness of some of these offences.

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