Is it a Crime to Carry Pepper Spray as Self-Defence?

It is a criminal offence to carry pepper spray for personal protection.

It is a criminal offence to carry pepper spray for personal protection.

  • Pepper spray, commonly referred to by the brand name “Mace”, can be used or carried by people as a potential mode of defence against potential attackers.
  • Legislation first enacted in 1995 designated pepper spray as a prohibited weapon.
  • The Firearms Act, included in the Criminal Code of Canada, defined firearms as non-restricted, restricted, or prohibited, each designation carrying with it different criminal consequences for possession, production or sale.
  • The Firearms Act also introduced new legislation for other weapons as well. This included knives and spray devices, such as pepper spray.
  • The Criminal Code was amended so that the definition of a prohibited weapon could be much broader.
  • The Code specifically states that a prohibited weapon is:
  • Any device designed to be used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person by the discharge therefrom of
    • tear gas, mace or other gas, or
    • any liquid, spray, powder or other substance that is capable of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person.


  • In addition, the term “weapon” has been defined to include anything designed, intended or used to cause death or injury to another person or to threaten or intimidate.
  • While some people may consider pepper spray to be a reasonable mode of defence against potential perpetrators it is  a prohibited weapon, as defined by the Firearms Act.
  • Therefore carrying pepper spray is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years.
  • Some people disagree with this classification as they argue that people should be able to legally defend themselves against attackers without risking criminal charges.

Is Pepper Spray a Prohibited Weapon?

  • Under Canada’s Firearms Act, pepper spray is considered a prohibited weapon.
  • This designation as a prohibited weapons denotes that pepper spray cannot be produced or sold in Canada.
  • As well, it is a criminal offence in Canada to manufacture, sell or use products  that are similar to pepper spray.
  • In the case of pepper spray  ”similar” means any gas, powder, or liquid spray that is capable of injuring or immobilizing a person is prohibited.

Is it  illegal to bring pepper spray into Canada? 

  • it is a criminal offence to bring pepper spray into Canada as it is classified as prohibited as it is therefore not allowed into the country.
  • If you are caught in Canada, or going into Canada at the Canadian border,  with pepper spray, you could be criminally charged, prosecuted and if convicted face potential jail time and a criminal record.

Are there any Exceptions? 

  • There exists one exception that allows for the use of pepper spray without the potential consequence of a criminal conviction.
  • While pepper spray is illegal in Canada to carry or use as a potential mode of defence  there is one exception.  Pepper spray can be legally purchased and used in Canada if:

A) The spray  clearly indicates on its dispenser that it is intended for animal, such as bear mace, and not human use

B) The spray must qualify as a pest control product under Canada’s Pest Control Product Act.

  • That being said, if you are found to using animal spray repellent as a pepper spray for personal protection, you can still be charged with a criminal offence.
  • For instance, if you were to be found carrying pepper spray in your bag or purse in  a normal setting you would most likely be charged with a criminal offence.
  • If you have been charged with a criminal offence for carrying pepper spray or any other criminal offence there are defences available to you. Contact Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers today for your free consultation!
6 Jun 2017

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