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Arson & Criminal Charges In Canada?

Arson is the act of intentionally, or recklessly, causing a fire or explosion that damages property. There are a few arson offences in the Criminal Code. Each offence varies slightly depending on whether or not people were endangered.

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Arson & Criminal CHARGES IN CANADA

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Arson is a very serious criminal offence, and if you are currently facing criminal charges for arson, you must immediately contact a criminal lawyer. In Canada, there are five different offences for arson outlined in the Criminal Code, disregard for human life, damages to property, own property, arson for fraudulent purposes and arson by negligence.

Disregard For Human Life

Under section 433, the Criminal Code states that anyone who intentionally or recklessly causes property damage by fire or explosion, whether or not that person owns the property, is guilty of an indictable offence and potentially liable to imprisonment for life. If they knew this act was reckless of whether the property was inhabited or occupied or that the act would cause bodily harm to another person.

This means that the prosecutor must prove that the individual committing the act of arson had a disregard for human life. This section allows the prosecution to prove the mens rea (or mental intent) either through direct intention or via recklessness. In this particular offence, it does not matter who owns the property. Meaning, even if it is your property, you can still face charges for disregarding human life and setting a fire or explosion on your property.


In order for the prosecution this offence through the concept of recklessness, it must be proven that you actually knew that damage caused by fire to the property was the probable or most likely consequence of the action and that you proceeded with those actions despite the risk. This is an indictable offence and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Damage To Property

Section 434 of the Code covers property damage. If someone commits an act of arson and damages property that they do not wholly own, they could face an indictable offence and a sentence of up to 14 years. For example, if you co-owned property and set a fire, you could face charges for property damage. This offence deals with property that is not solely owned by the individual facing charges. The mental element may be proven via recklessness (see above). In assessing the issue of intent, the trier of fact will consider the surrounding circumstances on how the fire started.

Own Property

Any person who recklessly causes damage by fire or explosion to property that they own or partly owns is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable for up to 14 years in prison if the fire seriously threatens the health and well-being or property of another person. The prosecution has to prove that your act of arson "seriously threatened" the well-being or property of another individual. This will be dependent on the facts of your case.

Arson For Fraudulent Purposes

Any individual who intends to defraud another person by causing damage by fire or explosion to property, whether or not they own this property, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable for a sentence of not more than 10 years, or an offence that is punishable on summary conviction. If the individual is a holder or named as a beneficiary under a policy of fire insurance on that property, the court can infer intent to defraud.

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Arson By Negligence

When an individual does not keep their property up to the standard of care to prevent or control the spread of fires or explosions, and this causes a fire or explosion in that property that causes bodily harm to another person or damage to the property, they could be facing an indictable offence and a maximum sentence of five years, or an offence punishable on summary conviction.

By neglecting to respect laws that exist to prevent or control fires or explosions on that property, they depart from the standard of care expected on a property.

The Crown prosecutor must prove that you neglected to keep the property up to the standard of care, and it was your negligence that caused the fire or explosion. They do not have to prove that you were the one that started the fire or explosion, just that it caused bodily harm or property damage to another person.


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