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Damage to Property - Arson

NCJ Number
Date Published
48 pages
This report of Canada's Law Reform Commission reviews the legislative history and current law of arson in Canada, examines key issues in arson law, and recommends specific changes in arson law.
A historical review of Canada's criminal law of arson indicates that it has not changed much since 1892, the inaugural date of Canada's first Criminal Code. Current arson law is complex and redundant; which offense is charged depends on the type of property burned and often on whether or not the perpetrator had fraudulent intent. Confusion about arson-related offenses leads to the rare use of some sections of the law and frequent failure in prosecution because the wrong offense was charged. Key issues in arson law are noted: the nature of the act proscribed, the mental element required, and the description of the property protected under the law. The commission offers five specific recommendations to change the current arson law: (1) that the arson offense prohibit conduct which causes a fire or explosion resulting in damage to or destruction of property, (2) that the mental element for the arson offense be intent or recklessness, (3) that the arson offense deal with damaging or destroying all corporeal property by fire or explosion regardless of the type of corporeal property involved, (4) that the arson offense protect only the property owned by someone other than the perpetrator, and (5) that the maximum penalty for arson be higher than the maximum penalty for the general offense of vandalism. A total of 110 notes are listed.