No, pepper spray is considered a prohibited weapon in Canada and is therefore illegal. If you are found in possession of pepper spray, you can be charged with a criminal offence.
The penalties for weapon offences in Canada are very serious, including long-term imprisonment and a criminal record. Below we go into more detail on why it is a crime to carry pepper spray in self-defence, if you can bring pepper spray into Canada, and whether there are any exceptions under the Canadian weapons laws.
What is a Classification of a Prohibited Weapon?
The Canadian criminal code includes an extensive list of prohibited weapons outlined in the Regulation Prescribing Certain Firearms and Other Weapons as Prohibited or Restricted. The regulation lists all types of weapons from crossbows to rocket launchers and classifies pepper spray, commonly known as mace, as a prohibited weapon.
According to the Regulation, the definition of a prohibited weapon includes any weapon designed to cause an injury, immobilize or incapacitate by a discharge of gas, such as tear gas or mace. Moreover, any device discharging liquid, spray, powder or other substance that can cause injuries, immobilize or incapacitate is also considered a prohibited weapon.
According to the Criminal Code, the term weapon can include anything intended or designed to cause death or injuries, threaten or intimidate any person. Given the generality of this definition, possessing or carrying pepper spray falls under the scope of the Criminal Code and is considered a criminal offence.
Weapon Offence Under the Criminal Code
The act of possessing or carrying mace is classified as an offence. In the Criminal Code, there are several types of possession offences outlined in Sections 88 through 91.
Section 88 – Possession of a Weapon for Dangerous Purposes
Any person who possesses or carries a weapon for any purpose, dangerous to the public, or for any illegal purposes commits an offence. Pepper spray falls under the definition of a weapon, therefore, anyone possessing pepper spray in Canada can potentially face criminal charges. The punishments vary depending on whether the Crown proceeds summarily or by indictment based on the severity of the offence. It can potentially amount to ten years in prison.
Section 89 – Carrying Weapon While Attending Public Meeting
The Criminal Code also makes it illegal to carry mace while in public. According to the Criminal Code, a person carrying a weapon while attending a public meeting or on the way to such a meeting commits an offence. Such offences are prosecuted summarily with penalties ranging from a fine up to imprisonment for the term not exceeding two years or both.
Section 90 – Carrying Concealed Weapon
Pepper spray, when concealed, can make you liable for the offence of carrying a concealed weapon. The Criminal Code makes it illegal for anyone to carry a weapon unless such a person is authorized to carry concealed weapons under the Firearms Act. The penalty for concealed carry of pepper spray varies depending on whether the Crown proceeds summarily or by indictment. It can amount to five years in prison.
Possessing a can of mace can lead to criminal liability under another section of the Criminal Code, prohibiting unauthorized possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon. According to Section 91 (2), possessing a prohibited weapon without holding an appropriate license is an offence which can be punishable either summarily or by indictment, with a maximum penalty amounting to five years in prison.
Is It Illegal to Bring Pepper Spray Into Canada?
Pepper spray is classified as a prohibited weapon under the Criminal Code, therefore, bringing it into Canada is illegal. Individuals caught with pepper spray while crossing the Canadian border will be face sanctions, including possible jail time and a criminal record.
According to the Criminal Code, when a prohibited weapon is imported into Canada, they are guilty of an indictable offence with potential jail time up to 10 years. The minimum sentence is one year.
Are There Exceptions to Pepper Spray Legislation in Canada?
The only available exception from pepper spray laws relates to sprays designed for use on pests. According to Canada’s Pest Control Product Act, the term ‘pest’ includes an animal that is injurious, noxious and troublesome. Based on this definition, your bear mace fits seamlessly into the category of pest-control products, which are legal in Canada.
However, if you are found carrying bear mace in a location not associated with bears or wildlife, you can be charged with a criminal offence for possessing or carrying a weapon. Due to the expanded interpretation of the term ‘weapon’ in the Criminal Code, anything which is designed to cause injury, incapacitate or intimidate can be considered a weapon.
Using bear spray on humans is prohibited and can lead to criminal charges.
What Should I Do if I Have Been Charged with a Weapon Offence?
Canadian weapons laws can be complicated and allow broad application. Meanwhile, the penalties for offences related to weapons, including pepper spray, can be devastating and lead to long-term incarceration and a criminal record, hurting the chances of finding a job, renting a home, and gaining permanent residence.
If you have been charged or investigated with a weapon offence related to pepper spray, bear mace or any other prohibited weapon, don’t hesitate to contact our Calgary criminal defence lawyers at Strategic Criminal Defence. Call us at 1-866-939-5940 or reach out through our website for a free consultation on how we can help in your case.