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

August 7, 2021
pepper spray
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.


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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!
Jonathan Pyzer
Written By:
Jonathan Pyzer
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan is a highly skilled and sought after criminal defence lawyer who represents clients charged with criminal offences all over the Province of Ontario. He is a member in good-standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada, Criminal Lawyers’ Association and Toronto Lawyers Association.
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