Definition of Bodily Harm

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General Principles

See also: Criminal Code and Related Definitions
See also: Aggravated Assault (Offence) and Aggravated Sexual Assault (Offence)

Section 2 of the Criminal Code defines "bodily harm" as:

“bodily harm” means any hurt or injury to a person that interferes with the health or comfort of the person and that is more than merely transient or trifling in nature;
...2014, c. 17, s. 1, c. 23, s. 2, c. 25, s. 2; 2015, c. 3, s. 44, c. 13, s. 3, c. 20, s. 15.



Bodily harm is considered a "low threshold" to meet.[1]

It must be more than "a very short time period and an injury of very minor degree which results in a very minor degree of distress".[2]

Bodily harm could include psychological injury to the victim.[3]

Once bodily harm was found, the wording of s. 2 only requires interference of "health" or comfort of the person.[4]

This definition is similar (if it is not word for word) to the English common law definition of actual bodily harm stated.[5]

Transient or Trifling

An injury must be both transient and trifling to be excluded from the definition.[6]

"Transient" has been interpreted as "Passing by or away with time; not durable or permanent; temporary, transitory"[7]

"Trifling" has been interpreted as "Of little moment or value; trumpery; insignificant, petty"[8]

It is wrong to conclude that merely because the injury heals in less than a week would not be bodily harm as serious life-threatening injuries can be of short duration.[9]

The court should look at the overall effect of the injuries, rather than the individual's injuries that may be trifling in isolation.[10]

Medical Evidence

It is not necessary to call medical evidence to prove bodily harm.[11]


Generally mere bruising will not be bodily harm.[12] However, more serious bruising such as those which last 10 or more days or are present in the facial area will be considered bodily harm.[13]


Specific examples of bodily harm:[14]

  • fracture of the nasal bones [15]
  • scrapes, lacerations and bruises, especially around the eye and a large amount of hair pulled out by the roots[16]
  • superficial injuries, consisting primarily of bruising and abrasions less than an inch in length[17]
  • "a number of bruises to the neck and arms, a number of lacerations to the face, chest, shoulder and wrist that which cleared up within a week, difficulty speaking for three or four days as a result of choking and a scar on her forearm from a laceration"[18]
  • a sore neck that lasted for approximately one month[19]
  • small bruise on calf, small anal tear and deviated septum all of which would "resolve ... within a few days"[20]
  • bruises going away after 11 days, sore hand and sore throat.[21]

There is not necessarily a requirement of an injury being present for a certain duration to be considered bodily harm. The injury may be short and still not be trifling.[22]


Whether facts meet the definition of "bodily harm" is reviewable on a standard of correctness.[23]

  1. R v Bulldog, 2015 ABCA 251 (CanLII), per curiam, at para 44
    R v Dorscheid, 1994 ABCA 18 (CanLII), [1994] AJ No 56 (CA), per Cote JA, at para 11
  2. Bulldog, supra, at para 44
    R v Dixon (1988), 1988 CanLII 2824 (BC CA), 42 CCC (3d) 318 at 332, [1988] 5 WWR 577, per Carrothers JA
  3. R v McCraw, 1991 CanLII 29 (SCC), [1991] 3 SCR 72, (1991), 66 CCC (3d) 517 (SCC), per Cory J
    see also R v C.D.; R v CDK, [2005] 3 SCR 668, 2005 SCC 78 (CanLII), per Bastarache J
  4. Dixon, supra
  5. R v Donovan [1934] 2 KB 498 (also 25 Cr. App. Rep.1 CCA) at page 509 and R v Chan-Fook [1994] 2 All ER 552 at 557D where the reference to transient or trifling injuries is taken as applying to actual bodily harm rather than bodily harm
  6. R v JA, 2010 ONCA 226 (CanLII), per Simmons JA - reversed on other grounds at [2011] 2 SCR 440
  7. Dixon, supra, at p. 331
  8. Dixon, supra, at p. 331
  9. R v Garrett (1995), 169 A.R. 394 (C.A.)
  10. Garrett, ibid.
  11. R v Giroux, 1995 ABCA 393 (CanLII), [1995] AJ No 900 (C.A.), per Fraser CJ (2:1)
  12. R v Dupperon, 1984 CanLII 61 (SK CA), per curiam
  13. R v Dixon, 1988 CanLII 205 (YK CA), per Carrothers JA
  14. See R v Moquin, 2010 MBCA 22 (CanLII), per Beard JA
  15. R v Papalia, 2012 BCSC 245 (CanLII), per Bruce J, at para 135
  16. R v Dorscheid, 1994 ABCA 18 (CanLII), [1994] AJ No 56 (C.A.), per Cote JA, at para 11
  17. R v Rabieifar (A.), 2003 CanLII 22353 (ON CA), [2003] OJ No 3833 (C.A.), per curiam
  18. Moquin, supra
  19. Giroux, supra
  20. R v CK, 2001 BCCA 379 (CanLII), per Hall JA, at para 3
  21. Moquin, supra, at paras 32, 33
  22. R v Dixon, 1988 CanLII 205 (YK CA), per Carrothers JA
  23. R v Bulldog, 2015 ABCA 251 (CanLII), per curiam, at para 18
    R v Morin, 1992 CanLII 40 (SCC), [1992] 3 SCR 286 at 294, 66 CCC (3d) 193, per Sopinka J