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Criminal negligence is the failure on the part of a person with a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent certain negative outcomes from occurring. 

Although it is broadly-defined with several negligence-based criminal offences detailed in the Criminal Code, most charges we see of criminal negligence are related to the operation of a motor vehicle. However, certainly not exclusively.

There are two main forms of criminal negligence: causing bodily harm and causing death.

Section 219:

(1) Everyone is criminally negligent who;
(a) in doing anything, or
(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

(2) Definition of duty;
For the purposes of this section, duty means a duty imposed by law.


What Is Criminal Negligence Causing Death?

Every person who by criminal negligence causes death to another person is guilty of an indictable offence. Offences under s. 220 are straight indictable, meaning they are generally the most serious crimes, such as Murder, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, etc. and carry with them the most serious punishments.

Section 220 of the Criminal Code of Canada states:

  • (a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
  • (b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.


What Is Criminal Negligence Causing Bodily Harm?

Under s. 221 of the criminal code, every person who by criminal negligence causes bodily harm to another person is guilty of;

an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years.
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

A summary offence, is an offence which is resolved without a jury or indictment. It is generally a “less serious” offence versus an indictable offence. 


What Is The Difference Between Criminal Negligence And Criminal Recklessness?

In both cases, what is being analyzed is the extent of mental awareness an accused had at the relevant time.

Criminal negligence occurs when the defendant should have been aware of the risk. Negligence means that the accused failed to perceive the risks of his actions, resulting in a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise. Momentary inattention will not suffice to establish criminal negligence.


There are two elements to recklessness: There must be (1) an awareness of a risk or danger and (2) a choice to persist in the conduct despite awareness of the risk.

The difference between the two

The difference between negligence and recklessness is the extent of the awareness of the danger. Negligence can be established with a reduced level of awareness, while establishing recklessness requires evidence to support the perception, and disregard of the risk.

If you have been charged with any offence and would like to speak to a lawyer about your rights, we also offer a free 30-minute phone consultation to answer all of your questions. Contact us by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at yourteam@armouredsuits.ca to schedule your meeting