In Canada it is a crime to destroy (including burn) currency in the form of coins. This is legislated in the Currency Act and also in the Criminal Code of Canada.
The Currency Act
The Currency Act is a Federal Act that states that "no person shall melt down, break up or use otherwise than as currency any coin that is legal tender in Canada.”
Marginal note: Melting down coins 11(1) No person shall, except in accordance with a licence granted by the Minister, melt down, break up or use otherwise than as currency any coin that is current and legal tender in Canada.
Marginal note: Offence and punishment (2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) or any condition attached to a licence referred to in that subsection is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months or to both, and, in addition to any fine or imprisonment imposed, the court may order that the articles by means of or in relation to which the offence was committed be forfeited to Her Majesty.
As stated above, an individual convicted of this offence would not only face a criminal record but potentially they would also face a fine of up to $250.00 and up to 12 months in jail.
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In the Criminal Code of Canada it is a criminal offence to deface coins, this includes burning coins:
456 Defacing Current Coins
Defacing current coins
456. Every one who
(a) defaces a current coin, or
(b) utters a current coin that has been defaced,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
While both the Currency Act and the Criminal Code of Canada state that destroying (including burning) coins is an offence, neither states that destroying paper currency is a criminal offence.
Therefore if an individual is found to have burned paper currency they would not be liable under the Currency Act or the Criminal Code of Canada of committing a criminal offence and could not face criminal charges for their actions.
Why is it a crime to burn coins?
The currency act states that defaced coins are not currency.
(2) No coin that is bent, mutilated or defaced, or that has been reduced in weight otherwise than by abrasion through ordinary use, shall pass current.
It is unclear as the why it is illegal in Canada to destroy coins but not paper currency.
However it is theorized that the purposeful act of destroying currency permanently removes the money from circulation, consequently reducing the supply of money, and therefore increases by the same amount the collective wealth of everyone else who holds money.
This is called deflation, the shrinking of the money supply causing an increase of the value of the money left in circulation.
Are there instances when destroying coins would not be a criminal act?
The Central of Bank of Canada regularly collects and destroys worn-out coins and banknotes and replaces them with new ones.
The individuals who perform this job are licensed to do so, and would not be liable of a criminal offence under the Currency Act or the Criminal of Canada for the act of burning coins.
As the currency they destroy is exchanged for new currency this action has no bearing on the value of Canadian currency.