Self-Defense and Assault: When Is Force Justified?

April 23rd, 2023
Self-Defense and Assault: When Is Force Justified?

The Canadian Criminal Code outlines when the use of force in self-defence is justified (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-45). There are different sections in the criminal code as it applies to regular persons, law enforcement officers, person in authority like teachers, and for other circumstances such as being intoxicated. This is federal law and applies to all the Canadian provinces and territories.

But the law is basically this: You can use force to defend yourself if force is being used against you or another person (or your property) or the threat of force is used upon you. And the force you use should be specifically for the purpose of defending and/or protecting you or someone else, and you have used reasonable force based on the circumstances.

In Canada, the bar is set higher for using force in self-defence than it is in some other countries such as the US. It is not uncommon in Canada for persons believing that they are defending themselves or their property to later find themselves facing assault charges.

So, while the law in Canada protects individuals who are exercising self-defence, those protections have limits, and the self-defence laws are not umbrellas under which someone can exercise any amount of force on someone else at the slightest provocation—and get away with it.

If you have been charged with assault, and you believe you were acting in self-defence, hire an experienced criminal lawyer without delay. Do not make any statements to police without first consulting your lawyer.


Gagan Nahal is a criminal defence lawyer based in Surrey, British Columbia, although he has represented clients across Canada. He works vigorously and tirelessly defending his clients. 

If you have any questions about this article or you would like to talk to Mr. Nahal, please call him directly at (604) 527-4769.