Defamatory Libel (Offence)
|s. 300, 301, and 302 of the Crim. Code|
|Election / Plea|
Sup. Court w/ Jury (*)
|Types of Release||Releaseable by Office-in-Charge or Judge|
|Avail. Disp.||Discharge (730)|
Conditional Sentence (742.1)
|Maximum||2 or 5 years incarceration|
- 1 Overview
- 2 Offence Wording
- 3 Proof of the Offence
- 4 Interpretation of the Offence
- 5 Defences
- 6 Principles and Factors of Sentencing
- 7 Damages Orders
- 8 Ancillary Sentencing Orders
- 9 See Also
Section 300, 301, and 302 describes three offences.
|Crown Election||Defence Election|
|s. 300 [publishing defamatory libel known to be false],
s. 302 [extortion by libel]
On Attendance Notice
On a Promise to Appear
Undertaking or Recognizance
a Judge or Justice
on a PTA, Undertaking or Recog.
|Direct to Attend |
for Fingerprints, etc.
Identification of Criminals Act
s. 2 ID Crim. Act
|s. 300, 301, or 302|
When charged under s. 300, 301, or 302, the accused cannot be given an attendance notice or a summons without arrest, nor can he be released by an arresting officer. He can be released by an officer-in-charge under s. 498 on a promise to appear or recognizance. He can also be released by a justice under s. 515. A young person will be subject to a maximum penalty of 3 years under s. 42(15) of the YCJA and can be given an attendance notice without arrest under s. 496 or a summons and if arrested, can be released by the arresting officer under s. 497 on an attendance notice or by an officer-in-charge under s. 498 on a promise to appear or recognizance. The young person can also be released by a justice under s. 515.
If police decide to bring the accused before a Justice pursuant to s. 503, there will be a presumption against bail (i.e. a reverse onus) if the offence, prosecuted by indictment, was committed:
- while at large under s. 515 [bail release], 679 or 680 [release pending appeal or review of appeal] (s. 515(6)(a)(i));
- "for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association" with a criminal organization (s. 515(6)(a)(ii));
- where the offence involved a firearm, cross-bow, prohibited weapon restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or explosive substance, while the accused was subject to a prohibition order preventing possession of these items (s. 515(6)(a)(viii)); or
- where the accused is not "ordinarily a resident in Canada" (s. 515(6)(b)).
A peace officer who charges a person under s. 300, 301, or 302 of the Code can require that person to attend for the taking of fingerprints, photographs or other similar recordings that are used to identify them under the Identification of Criminals Act.
For all criminal or regulatory prosecutions, there is a discretionary general publication ban available on application of the Crown, victim or witness to prohibit the publishing of "any information that could identify the victim or witness" under s. 486.5(1) where it is "necessary" for the "proper administration of justice". Other available publication bans include prohibitions for publishing evidence or other information arising from a bail hearing (s. 517), preliminary inquiry (s. 539) or jury trial (s. 648). There is a mandatory publication ban in all youth prosecutions on information tending to identify young accused under s. 110 of the YCJA or young victims under s. 111 of the YCJA.
See below in Ancillary Sentencing Orders for details on designations relating to sentencing orders.
Punishment of libel known to be false
300. Every one who publishes a defamatory libel that he knows is false is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 264.
Punishment for defamatory libel*
301. Every one who publishes a defamatory libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 265.
* found unconstitutional, see below
Extortion by libel
302. (1) Every one commits an offence who, with intent
- (a) to extort money from any person, or
- (b) to induce a person to confer on or procure for another person an appointment or office of profit or trust,
publishes or threatens to publish or offers to abstain from publishing or to prevent the publication of a defamatory libel.
(2) Every one commits an offence who, as the result of the refusal of any person to permit money to be extorted or to confer or procure an appointment or office of profit or trust, publishes or threatens to publish a defamatory libel.
(3) Every one who commits an offence under this section is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 266.
Proof of the Offence
There are three offences relating to Defamatory Libel.
Proving publishing defamatory libel known to be false under s. 300 should include:
Proving extortion by libel under s. 302 should include:
Interpretation of the Offence
The offence under s. 300 is a specific intent offence that requires knowledge of falsity and intention to defame.
The offence of publishing defamatory libel under s. 301 is of no force and effect as it violates s. 2 of the Charter is not savable under s. 1 of the Charter.
Section 300 is constitutional.
R v Stevens (1993), 82 CCC (3d) 97, 1993 CanLII 14706 (MB PC)
R v Lucas,  1 SCR 439, 1998 CanLII 815 (SCC)
R v Lucas, 1995 CanLII 6024 (SK QB), (1995) 129 Sask R 53 (QB)
R v Byron Prior, 2008 NLTD 80 (CanLII)
R v Gill, 1996 CanLII 8147 (ON SC), 1996 CarswellOnt 1314 (Gen. Div.)
R v Lucas,  1 SCR 439, 1998 CanLII 815 (SCC)
R v Stevens, 1995 CanLII 5594 (MB CA)
See "extortion" as defined in s. 346 (extortion).
Defamatory Libel defined
298. (1) A defamatory libel is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published.
Mode of expression
(2) A defamatory libel may be expressed directly or by insinuation or irony
- (a) in words legibly marked on any substance; or
- (b) by any object signifying a defamatory libel otherwise than by words.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 262.
299. A person publishes a libel when he
- (a) exhibits it in public;
- (b) causes it to be read or seen; or
- (c) shows or delivers it, or causes it to be shown or delivered, with intent that it should be read or seen by the person whom it defames or by any other person.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 263.
Definition of Newspaper
Definition of newspaper
297 In sections 303, 304 and 308, newspaper means any paper, magazine or periodical containing public news, intelligence or reports of events, or any remarks or observations thereon, printed for sale and published periodically or in parts or numbers, at intervals not exceeding thirty-one days between the publication of any two such papers, parts or numbers, and any paper, magazine or periodical printed in order to be dispersed and made public, weekly or more often, or at intervals not exceeding thirty-one days, that contains advertisements, exclusively or principally.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 261.
Proprietor of newspaper presumed responsible
303 (1) The proprietor of a newspaper shall be deemed to publish defamatory matter that is inserted and published therein, unless he proves that the defamatory matter was inserted in the newspaper without his knowledge and without negligence on his part.
General authority to manager when negligence
(2) Where the proprietor of a newspaper gives to a person general authority to manage or conduct the newspaper as editor or otherwise, the insertion by that person of defamatory matter in the newspaper shall, for the purposes of subsection (1), be deemed not to be negligence on the part of the proprietor unless it is proved that
- (a) he intended the general authority to include authority to insert defamatory matter in the newspaper; or
- (b) he continued to confer general authority after he knew that it had been exercised by the insertion of defamatory matter in the newspaper.
(3) No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he sells a number or part of a newspaper that contains a defamatory libel, unless he knows that the number or part contains defamatory matter or that defamatory matter is habitually contained in the newspaper.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 267.
Special Plea for Offence
Section 607(2) states:
In case of libel
(2) An accused who is charged with defamatory libel may plead in accordance with sections 611 and 612.
Libel, plea of justification
611. (1) An accused who is charged with publishing a defamatory libel may plead that the defamatory matter published by him was true, and that it was for the public benefit that the matter should have been published in the manner in which and at the time when it was published.
Where more than one sense alleged
(2) A plea that is made under subsection (1) may justify the defamatory matter in any sense in which it is specified in the count, or in the sense that the defamatory matter bears without being specified, or separate pleas justifying the defamatory matter in each sense may be pleaded separately to each count as if two libels had been charged in separate counts.
Plea in writing
(3) A plea that is made under subsection (1) shall be in writing and shall set out the particular facts by reason of which it is alleged to have been for the public good that the matter should have been published.
(4) The prosecutor may in his reply deny generally the truth of a plea that is made under this section.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 539.
Plea of justification necessary
612. (1) The truth of the matters charged in an alleged libel shall not be inquired into in the absence of a plea of justification under section 611 unless the accused is charged with publishing the libel knowing it to be false, in which case evidence of the truth may be given to negative the allegation that the accused knew that the libel was false.
Not guilty, in addition
(2) The accused may, in addition to a plea that is made under section 611, plead not guilty and the pleas shall be inquired into together.
Effect of plea on punishment
(3) Where a plea of justification is pleaded and the accused is convicted, the court may, in pronouncing sentence, consider whether the guilt of the accused is aggravated or mitigated by the plea.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 540.
Special Requirements on Counts
Special Provisions respecting Counts
Sufficiency of count charging libel
584 (1) No count for publishing a blasphemous, seditious or defamatory libel, or for selling or exhibiting an obscene book, pamphlet, newspaper or other written matter, is insufficient by reason only that it does not set out the words that are alleged to be libellous or the writing that is alleged to be obscene.
(2) A count for publishing a libel may charge that the published matter was written in a sense that by innuendo made the publication thereof criminal, and may specify that sense without any introductory assertion to show how the matter was written in that sense.
(3) It is sufficient, on the trial of a count for publishing a libel, to prove that the matter published was libellous, with or without innuendo.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 513.
Sufficiency of count relating to fraud
586 No count that alleges false pretences, fraud or any attempt or conspiracy by fraudulent means is insufficient by reason only that it does not set out in detail the nature of the false pretence, fraud or fraudulent means.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 515.
Verdicts in cases of defamatory libel
317. Where, on the trial of an indictment for publishing a defamatory libel, a plea of not guilty is pleaded, the jury that is sworn to try the issue may give a general verdict of guilty or not guilty on the whole matter put in issue on the indictment, and shall not be required or directed by the judge to find the defendant guilty merely on proof of publication by the defendant of the alleged defamatory libel, and of the sense ascribed thereto in the indictment, but the judge may, in his discretion, give a direction or opinion to the jury on the matter in issue as in other criminal proceedings, and the jury may, on the issue, find a special verdict.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 281.
Principles and Factors of Sentencing
|s. 300 [publishing defamatory libel known to be false]||N/A||5 years custody|
|s. 302 [extortion by libel]||N/A||2 years custody|
Offences under s. 300, 301 and 302 are straight indictable. The maximum penalty is 5 years incarceration for s. 300 and 302 and 2 years incarceration for s. 301.
These offences have no mandatory minimum penalties.
s. 718.3, 787
|s. 300, 301, 302||N/A|
All dispositions are available.The judge may order a discharge (s. 730), suspended sentence (s. 731(1)(a)), fine (s. 731(1)(b)), custody (s. 718.3, 787), custody with probation (s. 731(1)(b)), custody with a fine (s. 734), or a conditional sentence (s. 742.1).
There are no statutory requirements that the sentences be consecutive.
Costs to successful party in case of libel
751. The person in whose favour judgment is given in proceedings by indictment for defamatory libel is entitled to recover from the opposite party costs in a reasonable amount to be fixed by order of the court.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 751; 1995, c. 22, s. 6.
751.1 Where costs that are fixed under section 751 are not paid forthwith, the party in whose favour judgment is given may enter judgment for the amount of the costs by filing the order in any civil court of the province in which the trial was held that has jurisdiction to enter a judgment for that amount, and that judgment is enforceable against the opposite party in the same manner as if it were a judgment rendered against that opposite party in that court in civil proceedings. 1995, c. 22, s. 6.
- see also: Defamatory Libel (Sentencing Cases)
Costs to successful party in case of libel
751 The person in whose favour judgment is given in proceedings by indictment for defamatory libel is entitled to recover from the opposite party costs in a reasonable amount to be fixed by order of the court.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 751; 1995, c. 22, s. 6.
751.1 Where costs that are fixed under section 751 are not paid forthwith, the party in whose favour judgment is given may enter judgment for the amount of the costs by filing the order in any civil court of the province in which the trial was held that has jurisdiction to enter a judgment for that amount, and that judgment is enforceable against the opposite party in the same manner as if it were a judgment rendered against that opposite party in that court in civil proceedings.
1995, c. 22, s. 6.
Ancillary Sentencing Orders
|DNA Orders||s. 300 or 302||
General Sentencing Orders
|Non-communication order while offender in custody (s. 743.21)||any||The judge has the discretion to order that the offender be prohibited "from communicating...with any victim, witness or other person" while in custody except where the judge "considers [it] necessary" to communicate with them.|
|Restitution Orders (s. 738)||any||A discretionary Order is available for things such as the replacement value of the property; the pecuniary damages incurred from harm, expenses fleeing a domestic partner; or certain expenses arising from the commission of an offence under s.402.2 or 403.|
|Victim Fine Surcharge (s. 737)||any||A mandatory surcharge under s. 737 of 30% of any fine order imposed, $100 per summary conviction or $200 per indictable conviction. If the offence occurs on or after October 23, 2013, the order is discretionary based on ability to pay, and the minimum amounts are smaller (15%, $50, or $100).|
General Forfeiture Orders
|Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime (s. 462.37(1) or (2.01))||any||Where there is a finding of guilt for an indictable offence under the Code or the CDSA in which property is "proceeds of crime" and offence was "committed in relation to that property", the property shall be forfeited to Her Majesty the Queen on application of the Crown.|
|Fine in Lieu of Forfeiture (s. 462.37(3))||any||Where a Court is satisfied an order for the forfeiture of proceeds of crime under s. 462.37(1) or (2.01) can be made, but that property cannot be "made subject to an order", then the Court "may" order a fine in "an amount equal to the value of the property". Failure to pay the fine will result in a default judgement imposing a period of incarceration.|
|Forfeiture of Weapons or Firearms (s. 491)||any||Where there is finding of guilt for an offence where a "weapon, an imitation firearm, a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance was used in the commission of [the] offence and that thing has been seized and detained", or "that a person has committed an offence that involves, or the subject-matter of which is, a firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance has been seized and detained, that the item be an enumerated weapon or related item be connected to the offence", then there will be a mandatory forfeiture order. However, under s. 491(2), if the lawful owner "was not a party to the offence" and the judge has "no reasonable grounds to believe that the thing would or might be used in the commission of an offence", then it should be returned to the lawful owner.|
|Forfeiture of Offence-related Property (s. 490.1)||any||Where there is a finding of guilt for an indictable offence, "any property is offence-related property" where (a) by means or in respect of which an indictable offence under this Act or the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act is committed, (b) that is used in any manner in connection with the commission of such an offence, or (c) that is intended to be used for committing such an offence". Such property is to be forfeited to Her Majesty in right of the province.|