What is the Difference Between Criminal Offences and Provincial Regulatory Offences?

August 7, 2021

What are Criminal Offences?


Different offences carry different consequences
Different offences carry different consequences
  • In the Canadian legal system, there are offences legislated under the Criminal Code of Canada and there are offences legislated under the Provincial Offences Act, or other Provincial Statues.
  •  This difference can be confusing for the for the accused as the word "offence" applies to both.
  • These offences carry respective consequences for the accused upon conviction.

Criminal Code Offences?

  • Criminal Offences are set out under the Criminal Code of Canada and enacted by Federal Parliament.
  • Offences under the Criminal Code of Canada are typically more serious and carry more serious consequences for the accused upon conviction.
  • Criminal Code offences intend to minimize criminal activity in Canadian Society and acts as a punitive threat.
  • Conviction under the Criminal Code will typically result in a criminal record for the accused.
  • Violations under The Controlled Drug and Substances Act  and The Firearms and Other Weapons Act are examples of offences under the Canadian Criminal Code.
  • These offences are generally resolved through Criminal Court proceedings.
  • While offences under the Criminal Code can sometimes be resolved through pre-trail proceedings, such as Crown Pre-Trials or Judicial Pre-Trials, it is still required that the accused, or a representative for the accused, appear in court on behalf of the accused.
  • The resolutions of these offences can often require involve a full criminal trial proceeding.


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What are Provincial Regulatory Offences?

  • Provincial Offences are governed by the Provincial Offences Act, and include a multitude of statues enacted by the Provincial Legislature through regulations authorized by Provincial Legislative Acts and municipal by-laws.
  • In Ontario, the Provincial Offences Act intends to regulate the day-to-day lives of all people living in Ontario.
  • Conviction of a Provincial Statute will not appear on the accused's Criminal Record.
  • Violations under the Highway Traffic Act, The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, The Liquor Licence Act, and The Occupational Health and Safety Act are examples of Provincial Regulatory offences
  • These offences are considered less serious and regulatory, but can still carry serious consequences for the accused upon conviction, such as a suspended drivers license.
  • The Provincial Offences Act  consists of three parts. The first and second parts relate to minor offences and parking infractions that are initiated by a certificate of offence given to accused by an officer, typically a ticket.
  • Generally these offences are resolved with fines provided for the ticket. It is the individuals right to pay the fine or have a hearing in front of a Justice of the Peace regarding the issue.
  • The third part of the Act sets out the procedures for offences that are serious enough that the accused must attend Court to answer to the charge but are not serious enough to be included in the Criminal Code.

Are Provincial Regulatory Offences Serious?

  • Charges under either the POA or the Criminal Code can be serious as both can carry negative consequences for the accused.
  • If you are charged with an offence under either the Provincial Offences Act or the Criminal Code you should consult with a lawyer, such as Toronto Defence Lawyer, so they can assist you to determine the best way to resolve your charges.
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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