Definition of Weapons

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General Principles

See also: Firearms

A number offences in the Criminal Code concern "weapons". Those offences include:

Section 2 of the Code includes the definition of weapon:

“Weapon” means any thing used, designed to be used or intended for use

(a) in causing death or injury to any person, or
(b) for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person


and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, includes a firearm and, for the purposes of sections 88, 267 and 272, any thing used, designed to be used or intended for use in binding or tying up a person against their will;
...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 2; R.S., 1985, c. 11 (1st Supp.), s. 2, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 2, 203, c. 31 (1st Supp.), s. 61, c. 1 (2nd Supp.), s. 213, c. 27 (2nd Supp.), s. 10, c. 35 (2nd Supp.), s. 34, c. 32 (4th Supp.), s. 55, c. 40 (4th Supp.), s. 2; 1990, c. 17, s. 7; 1991, c. 1, s. 28, c. 40, s. 1, c. 43, ss. 1, 9; 1992, c. 20, s. 216, c. 51, s. 32; 1993, c. 28, s. 78, c. 34, s. 59; 1994, c. 44, s. 2; 1995, c. 29, ss. 39, 40, c. 39, s. 138; 1997, c. 23, s. 1; 1998, c. 30, s. 14; 1999, c. 3, s. 25, c. 5, s. 1, c. 25, s. 1(Preamble), c. 28, s. 155; 2000, c. 12, s. 91, c. 25, s. 1(F); 2001, c. 32, s. 1, c. 41, ss. 2, 131; 2002, c. 7, s. 137, c. 22, s. 324; 2003, c. 21, s. 1; 2004, c. 3, s. 1; 2005, c. 10, s. 34, c. 38, s. 58, c. 40, ss. 1, 7; 2006, c. 14, s. 1; 2007, c. 13, s. 1; 2012, c.1, s. 160, c. 19, s. 371; 2013, c. 13, s. 2; 2014, c. 17, s. 1, c. 25, s. 2.


CCC

s. 2
...
“offensive weapon” has the same meaning as “weapon”;
...


CCC

Similarly in s. 2.1:

Further definitions — firearms
2.1 In this Act, ammunition, antique firearm, automatic firearm, cartridge magazine, cross-bow, handgun, imitation firearm, prohibited ammunition, prohibited device, prohibited firearm, prohibited weapon, replica firearm, restricted firearm and restricted weapon, as well as authorization, licence and registration certificate when used in relation to those words and expressions, have the same meaning as in subsection 84(1).
2009, c. 22, s. 1.


CCC

Proof of an item as a weapon depends on all of the circumstances. The determination involves a subjective test of whether the accused intended to use the item as a weapon. [1]

Whether an object is a weapon is a subjective test and depends on all the circumstances. The accused must have intended to use of the object as a weapon.[2]

A weapon includes: [3]

  1. anything designed to be used as a weapon;
  2. anything that a person uses as a weapon, whether that thing is designed as a weapon or not; and
  3. anything that one intends to use as a weapon regardless of its design.

A suggested general analytical approach to determine whether an object is a "weapon" under s. 2 requires the Court to ask the following three questions: [4]

  1. Did the accused in fact use the object to cause death or injury, or to threaten or intimidate any person?
  2. Did the accused intend to use the object to cause death or injury or to threaten or intimidate any person?
  3. Was the object being carried by the accused designed to be used in causing death or injury to any person, or for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person?

If the answer to any of these questions is in the affirmative, the Crown has proven that the object was a weapon."[5] The third question was considered in greater detail. The judge stated that the test for determining whether the object was designed to be used requires the following questions:

  1. Is the object’s design such that it could be readily usable to cause death or injury to any person or to threaten or intimidate any person?
  2. In all of the circumstances, would the carrying of the concealed object cause the reasonable person to fear for his own safety or for the public safety, if he were aware of the presence of the object?

If the answer to both of these questions is "yes", then the object will be considered a weapon. This requires looking at the object itself and the context of it being possessed.

Weapons do not need to be restricted to inanimate objects. A dog can be found to be a weapon.[6]

The focus is generally not on the nature of the object but on its use and capacity to cause bodily harm or death.[7]

  1. R v Roberts, 1990 CanLII 2524 (NS CA), (1990), 60 CCC (3d) 509 (NSCA)
  2. R v Roberts, 1990 CanLII 2524 (NS CA)
    R v Murray, 1991 CanLII 7116 (ON CA), (1991) 65 CCC (3d) 507 (ONCA)
  3. R v Califoux, 14 CCC (2d) 526 (BCCA)(*no link) at 13
  4. R v DAC, ABPC 171 (CanLII)
  5. DAC at para 75
  6. R v McLeod, (1993), 84 CCC (3d) 336 (Y.T.C.A.) (*no link)
  7. R v McLeod ("focus of the definition has been shifted from the character of the instrumentality in question to the result of its use or the purpose for which it was used.")
    R v Richards, 1992 CanLII 2601 (NS CA), (1992), 72 CCC (3d) 349 (NSCA) ("an object may become a weapon whether designed for that purpose or not, if it is used to cause death or injury or alternatively if the possessor intended to use it to cause death or injury.")

Specific Items

Other types of Guns

Any device that fits the definition of firearm will be a weapon.[1]

Pellet guns, paint guns and the like are variable:

  • a starting pistol is an imitation of a weapon.[2]
  • pellet gun not necessarily a weapon[3]
  1. R v Felawka, [1993] 4 SCR 199, 1993 CanLII 36 (SCC)
    R v Formosa (1993) 79 CCC 3d 9(*no link) ("all objects which are firearms as defined in s. 84 come within the definition of "weapon" found in s. 2 of the Criminal Code")
    c.f. R v James, 2011 ONCJ 125 (CanLII)
  2. R v Boutilier [1977] 4 W.W.R. 443 (BCCA)(*no link)
  3. R v Labrecque, 2011 ONCA 360 (CanLII)

Brass Knuckles

Under the Ontario Prohibited Weapons Order No.8 SOR/79-583, brass knuckles are classified as prohibited.[1]

The crown must prove that the holder of the brass knuckles used or intended to use the item to cause death or injury to persons or intended to use for threats or intimidation.[2]

The intent must be proven subjectively and objectively.[3]

  1. 2. The following devices are hereby declared to be prohibited weapons:
    ...
    (b) the device known as “Brass Knuckles” and any similar device consisting of a band of metal with finger holes designed to fit over the root knuckles of the hand.
  2. [1991] O.J. No. 405, 12 W.C.B.(2d) 487 (Gen.Div.)
  3. S.(L.B.), [1993] S.J. No. 512, 21 W.C.B. (2d) 279 (Q.B.) - case uses new definition of weapon under s.2

Knife

Where a knife is used to intimidate or threaten a person, it becomes a weapon.[1]

  1. R v MacDonald (2002), 170 CCC (3d) 46 (ONCA), 2002 CanLII 14251 at para 28

Bear Spray

In certain courts, bear spray has be established as a weapon. It is usually necessary to have forensic expert testimony.[1]

  1. R v Meier, 2012 SKPC 41 (CanLII) at 101

Stun Gun

A stun gun or taser is a weapon that is prohibited.[1]

Such weapons generate electrical current which, when in contact with skin, creates "pain compliance".[2]

  1. e.g. R v Greening, 2013 CanLII 5319 (NL PC) at para 1
  2. see R v Lambert, [2011] O.J. No. 3665 (S.C.)(*no link) at para 24
    R v Krawcar, 2011 ONCJ 236 (CanLII), [2011] O.J. No. 2056 (C.J.), at paras 34 and 35
    R v Dhaliwal, [2007] BCJ No. 2874 (S.C.), at paras 1 to 5

Cross-Bow

Definitions
84 (1) In this Part,
...
cross-bow means a device with a bow and a bowstring mounted on a stock that is designed to propel an arrow, a bolt, a quarrel or any similar projectile on a trajectory guided by a barrel or groove and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person; (arbalète)


Misc Items

A variety of items have been found to be a weapon in certain circumstances:

  • A broken piece of glass[1]
  • A vehicle [2]
  • Any sort of bomb[3]
  • A bottle of peanut butter that was thrown[4]
  • a bottle of beer[5]
  • a dog [6]
  • The use of a dildo in a sexual assault that causes injuries will be a weapon.[7]
  • a sewing machine pushed onto the lap of victim.[8]
  1. R v Allan (1971), 4 CCC (2d) 521 (NBCA)(*no link)
  2. see R v McLeod, (1993), 84 CCC (3d) 336 (Y.T.C.A.) (*no link)
    R v Lamy, 2002 SCC 25 (CanLII), [2002] 1 SCR 860
  3. R v Malang, 1982 CanLII 2029 (ON CA)
  4. R v Vandergraf, (1994), 93 CCC (3d) 286 (Man. C.A.)
  5. R v Richards 1992 CanLII 2601 (NS CA), (1992), 72 CCC (3d) 349 (NSCA)
  6. R v McLeod
  7. R v Lamy, [2002] 1 SCR 860, 2002 SCC 25 (CanLII)
  8. R v Hannen-Brown, 2011 ABCA 180 (CanLII)

Use of a Weapon

The "use" of a weapon can include the accused displaying a firearm in his hand to intimidate another[1] or merely displaying it.[2]

It is suggested that revealing a firearm's presence by word or deed is "use".[3]

It can also include discharging a firearm[4] or pointing a firearm.[5]

  1. R v Steele, 2007 SCC 36 (CanLII), [2007] 3 SCR 3 at para 27
    Rowe v The King, 1951 CanLII 7 (SCC), [1951] SCR 713, at p. 717
    R v Langevin (1979), 47 CCC (2d) 138(*no link) at p. 145
  2. R v Neufeld, [1984] O.J. No. 1747 (C.A.)(*no link)
  3. R v Gagnon, 1995 CanLII 1899 (ON CA)
  4. R v Steele at para 27
    R v Switzer, 1987 ABCA 23 (CanLII), (1987), 32 CCC (3d) 303 (Alta. C.A.)
  5. R v Steele at para 27
    R v Griffin 1996 CanLII 3210 (BC CA), (1996), 111 CCC (3d) 567 (BCCA)

Carrying a Weapon

The meaning of "carry" is the same as it applies to s. 10(2) of the CDSA as it is to s. 85 of the Criminal Code.[1]

"Carrying" is not restricted to having the weapon on one's person but can include having the weapon within reach in a vehicle for which he has care and control.[2]


  1. R v Oickle, 2015 NSCA 87 (CanLII) at para 27
  2. R v Oickle at para 25 - in relation to s. 10(2) of CDSA, citing cases relating to s. 85. Court states the meaning is the same
    R v Myroon, 2011 ABPC 36 (CanLII) at para 52 to 60
    R v Crawford, (1980) 54 CCC (2d) 412 (ONCA)(*no link)
    R v Hanabury (1971) 1 CCC (2d) 438) (PEISC)(*no link)

Prohibited Weapon

The Criminal Code distinguishes "prohibited weapons" and "restricted weapons" as subclasses of "weapons" generally. Additional weapons-related offence apply to those weapons classified as "prohibited" or "restricted".

s. 84(1)
...
“prohibited weapon” means

(a) a knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife, or
(b) any weapon, other than a firearm, that is prescribed to be a prohibited weapon;

...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 84; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 185(F), 186; 1991, c. 40, s. 2; 1995, c. 39, s. 139; 1998, c. 30, s. 16; 2003, c. 8, s. 2; 2008, c. 6, s. 2; 2009, c. 22, s. 2; 2015, c. 3, s. 45, c. 27, s. 18.


CCC

Before anything can be a prohibited weapon it must first be established as a weapon under s. 2.[1]

Under section 4 of the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and Other Weapons, Components and Part of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted, SOR/98-462, provides:

4 The weapons listed in Part 3 of the schedule are prohibited weapons for the purposes of paragraph (b) of the definition “prohibited weapon” in subsection 84(1) of the Criminal Code.


Reg

Part 3 of the Schedule, Prohibited Weapons, Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 8 states:

PART 3
Prohibited Weapons

Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 1

1 Any device designed to be used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person by the discharge therefrom of

(a) tear gas, Mace or other gas, or
(b) any liquid, spray, powder or other substance that is capable of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person.

Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 2

2 Any instrument or device commonly known as “nunchaku”, being hard non-flexible sticks, clubs, pipes, or rods linked by a length or lengths of rope, cord, wire or chain, and any similar instrument or device.

3 Any instrument or device commonly known as “shuriken”, being a hard non-flexible plate having three or more radiating points with one or more sharp edges in the shape of a polygon, trefoil, cross, star, diamond or other geometrical shape, and any similar instrument or device.

4 Any instrument or device commonly known as “manrikigusari” or “kusari”, being hexagonal or other geometrically shaped hard weights or hand grips linked by a length or lengths of rope, cord, wire or chain, and any similar instrument or device.

5 Any finger ring that has one or more blades or sharp objects that are capable of being projected from the surface of the ring.

Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 3

6 Any device that is designed to be capable of injuring, immobilizing or incapacitating a person or an animal by discharging an electrical charge produced by means of the amplification or accumulation of the electrical current generated by a battery, where the device is designed or altered so that the electrical charge may be discharged when the device is of a length of less than 480 mm, and any similar device.

7 A crossbow or similar device that

(a) is designed or altered to be aimed and fired by the action of one hand, whether or not it has been redesigned or subsequently altered to be aimed and fired by the action of both hands; or
(b) has a length not exceeding 500 mm.

Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 4

8 The device known as the “Constant Companion”, being a belt containing a blade capable of being withdrawn from the belt, with the buckle of the belt forming a handle for the blade, and any similar device.

9 Any knife commonly known as a “push-dagger” that is designed in such a fashion that the handle is placed perpendicular to the main cutting edge of the blade and any other similar device other than the aboriginal “ulu” knife.

10 Any device having a length of less than 30 cm and resembling an innocuous object but designed to conceal a knife or blade, including the device commonly known as the “knife-comb”, being a comb with the handle of the comb forming a handle for the knife, and any similar device.

Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 5

11 The device commonly known as a “Spiked Wristband”, being a wristband to which a spike or blade is affixed, and any similar device.

Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 6

12 The device commonly known as “Yaqua Blowgun”, being a tube or pipe designed for the purpose of shooting arrows or darts by the breath, and any similar device.

Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 7

13 The device commonly known as a “Kiyoga Baton” or “Steel Cobra” and any similar device consisting of a manually triggered telescoping spring-loaded steel whip terminated in a heavy calibre striking tip.

14 The device commonly known as a “Morning Star” and any similar device consisting of a ball of metal or other heavy material, studded with spikes and connected to a handle by a length of chain, rope or other flexible material.

Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 8

15 The device known as “Brass Knuckles” and any similar device consisting of a band of metal with one or more finger holes designed to fit over the fingers of the hand.


Regs


The mens rea for offences regarding prohibited weapons, it need only be proven that either knowledge or recklessness with respect to the characteristics of the knife in question which, in fact, makes it a prohibited weapon.[2]

The test for establishing a weapon as prohibited is an objective one. The Crown does not need to prove that the possessor of the object "used or intended to use" the object as a weapon.[3]

Proof of a weapon that can be opened by centrifugal force may be proven by way of the officer's demonstration.[4]

  1. R v Murray, (1985), 24 CCC (3d) 568 (“Murray #1”) - spiked wristband found as weapon
    R v Murray, 1991 CanLII 7116 (ON CA), (1991), 65 CCC (3d) 507 (“Murray #2”) - nunchaku sticks not proven as weapons
  2. R v Archer, (1983), 6 CCC (3d) 129 at 132 (Ont. C.A.)(*no link)
  3. R v Strong, 2012 BCCA 279 (CanLII) at para 35
  4. R v Wlodkowski, 2007 ONCA 167 (CanLII)


Restricted Weapon

s. 84
...
“restricted weapon” means any weapon, other than a firearm, that is prescribed to be a restricted weapon;


CCC

Photographs of Weapons

"butterfly knife" (prohibited weapon)

See Also