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Self Defence In Canadian Law

Video Transcript

I want to talk to you a little bit about today about self-defence in Canadian law; we are entitled to defend ourselves from attack or imminent threat and that is [self] defence. The crown has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not acting in self- defence. The laws of self-defence were extremely complicated in previous years. We had multiple sections of the Criminal Code which were probably only understood by judges and criminal lawyers. Juries were really confused by this so Parliament redrafted the sections to make them much clearer and cleaner so that we can understand, and the bottom line is this, if you are attacked, if you’re assaulted by someone or you reasonably apprehend that you’re being assaulted by someone who’s about to hit you, you’re entitled to act reasonably in these circumstances to protect yourself . . . to defend yourself. That’s the bottom line and these sections have been crafted in such a way now that jury members can understand them. The jury or the judge then has to look at a whole host of factors like the relative size, gender, weight, you know, your role as the accused and the circumstances. Did you provoke it, all sorts of issues have to be looked at but the bottom line is we can now understand much more clearer. You don’t have to have a thesis in criminal law or law degree now in criminal law to understand what self- defence means in Canada. A client comes into my office and says look I was defending myself from this action whether they were charged with murder, aggravated assault, assault body harm or assault. We have to analyze what their odds of winning [are], present them in the best light, and show that the other person was the aggressor and that this person acted reasonably. If we can create that reasonable doubt, we can win the case and the bottom line with an assault charge: if it’s your word against someone else’s and you are a person who’s credible and reliable, if you come across that way, you can often win because again the burden’s in your favor. The scales of justice are not evenly weighted the crown has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt so in other words they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not acting in self- defence. [It’s a] difficult burden [and they have to ask themselves] ‘are you sure?’ So that’s in a nutshell a simplified version of the law of self-defence.

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