Failing to Provide the Necessities of Life (Offence)
|Failing to Provide the Necessities of Life|
|s. 215 of the Crim. Code|
|Election / Plea|
summary proceedings must initiate within 6 months of the offence (786(2))
Sup. Court w/ Jury (*)
|Types of Release||Release by Officer, Officer-in-charge, or Judge|
|Avail. Disp.||Discharge (730)|
Conditional Sentence (742.1)
|Maximum||18 months incarceration|
|Avail. Disp.||same as summary|
|Maximum||5 years incarceration|
Offences relating to failing to provide the necessities of life are found in Part VIII of the Criminal Code concerning "Offences Against the Person and Reputation".
|Crown Election|| Defence Election|
|s. 215 [failing to provide the necessities of life]||Hybrid Offence(s)||Yes||Yes, if Crown proceeds by Indictment|
|Offence(s)|| Attendance Notice
| Release By
On Attendance Notice
| Release By
On a Promise to Appear
Undertaking or Recognizance
| Release By
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
When charged under s. 215, the accused can be given an attendance notice without arrest under s. 496 or a summons. If arrested, he can be released by the arresting officer under s. 497 on a attendance notice or 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.
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. 215 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 offences 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.
Duty of persons to provide necessaries
215 (1) Every one is under a legal duty
- (a) as a parent, foster parent, guardian or head of a family, to provide necessaries of life for a child under the age of sixteen years;
- (b) to provide necessaries of life to their spouse or common-law partner; and
- (c) to provide necessaries of life to a person under his charge if that person
- (i) is unable, by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge, and
- (ii) is unable to provide himself with necessaries of life.
(2) Every one commits an offence who, being under a legal duty within the meaning of subsection (1), fails without lawful excuse,
the proof of which lies on him,* to perform that duty, if
- (a) with respect to a duty imposed by paragraph (1)(a) or (b),
- (i) the person to whom the duty is owed is in destitute or necessitous circumstances, or
- (ii) the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed, or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be endangered permanently; or
- (b) with respect to a duty imposed by paragraph (1)(c), the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be injured permanently.
(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (2)
- (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
- (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 215; 1991, c. 43, s. 9; 2000, c. 12, ss. 93, 95; 2005, c. 32, s. 11.
[* see Constitutionality, below]
Proof of the Offence
Proving failure to provide necessities of life (parental) under s. 215(1)(a) should include: 
Proving failure to provide necessities of life (spousal) under s. 215(1)(b) should include:
Proving failure to provide necessities of life (disability) under s. 215(1)(c) should include:
R v JAR, 2012 BCPC 195 (CanLII) at para 87
Interpretation of the Offence
The purpose of s. 215 is to establish a uniform minimum level of care to be provided to certain designated persons, a societal standard rather than a personal standard.
Existence of Duty
Factors to consider whether the there is a duty, includes the severity of the injury and the knowledge that it occurred.
Actus Reus and Mens Rea
Where the duty is found, the crown must prove:
- the culprit acts or omissions which led to the failure to provide necessaries of life were a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances, and
- it was objectively foreseeable that the failure to provide necessaries would lead to a risk of danger to the life or permanent endangerment to the health of the person to whom the duty is owed.
The accused's conduct is to be considered on an objective standard and so the individual characteristics and experiences of the accused are not relevant.
"Endangers" refers to exposing someone to danger, harm or risk but does not connote actual injury or damage.
The Crown does not need to prove that the accused knew the risk of danger or that they intended to expose the victim to any risk of danger.
The judge must consider "the serverity of the injury and the knowledge that it occurred".
Failure to seek medical attention can be a failure to provide necessaries of life.
The phrase "proof of which lies upon him" violates s. 11(d) and so those words are to be struck out.
- R v Naglik, 1993 CanLII 64 (SCC),  3 SCR 122
R v Alexander, 2011 ONSC 980 (CanLII) cited in R v Turley  B. C. J. No. 540, at para 146
- R v Turley, 2012 BCSC 397 (CanLII)
R v Lovett, 2017 ABQB 46 (CanLII) at para 11
also see R v Letourneau 2007 CanLII 345 (ON SC) at paras 94 and 95
Naglik, supra at para 54
Lovett, supra at para 11
R v JAR, 2012 BCPC 195 (CanLII) at para 82
R v Brooks (1902), 5 CCC 372 (BCCA)
- R v JF, 2007 ONCA 500 (CanLII), 222 CCC (3d) 474, at paras 50‑51, aff’d R v JF 2008 SCC 60 (CanLII)
Turley at para 146
JAR at para 82
- R v Pertab, 2004 CanLII 47791 (ON SC) at para 29
R v Scott, 1996 CanLII 7083 (SK QB)
R v Curtis, 1998 CanLII 1999 (ON CA)
(4) For the purpose of proceedings under this section,
- (a) [Repealed, 2000, c. 12, s. 93]
- (b) evidence that a person has in any way recognized a child as being his child is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that the child is his child;
- (c) evidence that a person has failed for a period of one month to make provision for the maintenance of any child of theirs under the age of sixteen years is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that the person has failed without lawful excuse to provide necessaries of life for the child; and
- (d) the fact that a spouse or common-law partner or child is receiving or has received necessaries of life from another person who is not under a legal duty to provide them is not a defence.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 215; 1991, c. 43, s. 9; 2000, c. 12, ss. 93, 95; 2005, c. 32, s. 11.
"Child" is no longer defined in Part VIII.
Section 214 defines "guardian" as including "a person who has in law or in fact the custody or control of a child".
The terms "abandon" and "expose" are defined in s. 214 and cover all of Part VIII. The terms "include":
- (a) "a wilful omission to take charge of a child by a person who is under a legal duty to do so", and
- (b) "dealing with a child in a manner that is likely to leave that child exposed to risk without protection;"
Section 2 defines:
- "Mental disorder"
- "common-law partner"
- Section 214 defining "child" was repealed in 2002
Participation of Third Parties
Certain persons who testify are entitled to make application for the use of testimonial aids: Exclusion of Public (s. 486), Use of a Testimonial Screen (s. 486), Access to Support Person While Testifying (s. 486.1), Close Proximity Video-link Testimony (s. 486.2), Self-Represented Cross-Examination Prohibition Order (s. 486.3), and Witness Security Order (s. 486.7).
A witness, victim or complainant may also request publication bans (s. 486.4, 486.5) and/or a Witness Identity Non-disclosure Order (s. 486.31). See also, Publication Bans, above.
On Finding of Guilt
For any indictable offence with a maximum penalty no less than 5 years (including offences under s. 215), but are not serious personal injury offences, s. 606(4.2) requires that after accepting a guilty plea the judge must inquire whether "any of the victims had advised the prosecutor of their desire to be informed if such an agreement were entered into, and, if so, whether reasonable steps were taken to inform that victim of the agreement". Failing to take reasonable steps at guilty plea requires the prosecutor to "as soon as feasible, take reasonable steps to inform the victim of the agreement and the acceptance of the plea" (s. 606(4.3)).
Under s. 738, a judge must inquire from the Crown before sentencing whether "reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victims with an opportunity to indicate whether they are seeking restitution for their losses and damages".
Under s. 722(2), the judge must inquire "[a]s soon as feasible" before sentencing with the Crown "if reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victim with an opportunity to prepare" a victim impact statement. This will include any person "who has suffered, or is alleged to have suffered, physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss" as a result of the offence. Individuals representing a community impacted by the crime may file a statement under s. 722.2.
Sentencing Principles and Ranges
|s. 215 [failing to provide the necessities of life]||Summary Election||18 months custody|
|s. 215 [failing to provide the necessities of life]||Indictable Election||5 years custody|
Offences under s. 215 are hybrid. If prosecuted by indictment, the maximum penalty is 5 years incarceration. If prosecuted by summary conviction, the maximum penalty is 18 months jail.
These offences have no mandatory minimum penalties.
s. 718.3, 787
| Custody and
| Custody and
| Conditional |
For offences under s. 215, 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.
- use of weapon or confinement (Nickel)
- use of potentially harmful substances such as drugs or alcohol (Nickel)
- involvement of third parties (Nickel)
- multiplicity of victims or offences over time (Nickel)
- R v Nickel, 2012 ABCA 158 (CanLII) at para 36
The range for a first time offender where the offence concerns the neglect of the elderly will often be between 4 and 8 months.
Ancillary Sentencing Orders
|DNA Orders||s. 215||
General Sentencing Orders
|Non-communication order while offender in custody (s. 743.21)||any||The judge has 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 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.|
(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (2) is guilty of
- (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
- (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 215; 1991, c. 43, s. 9; 2000, c. 12, ss. 93, 95.