Right to be Informed of Charges

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General Principles

See also: Right to be Informed of Reasons for Arrest or Detention

Section 11(a) of the Charter guarantees to right to be informed of the specific charges against the accused. It states:

Proceedings in criminal and penal matters
11. Any person charged with an offence has the right

(a) to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence;


This right has two components. "The primary protection is notice of the specific offence. Without notice of the specific offence an accused may be deprived of the ability to make full answer and defence. Accused have the right to know with what they are charged so they can make decisions about their defence, assemble evidence and prepare to meet the prosecution case."[1] This right protects the rule of law that "an accused can only be charged with an offence known to law".[2] The second component is the right against unreasonable delay in being informed. This right is designed to protect the right to full answer and defence.[3]

  1. R v Cisar, 2014 ONCA 151 (CanLII) at para 11
  2. Cisar, ibid. at para 11
  3. Cisar, ibid. at para 12


See also: Form and Content of Charges

Section 581 largely codifies the requirements of sufficiency for the purpose of s. 11(a).[1]

Substance of offence
581. (1) Each count in an indictment shall in general apply to a single transaction and shall contain in substance a statement that the accused or defendant committed an offence therein specified.
Form of statement
(2) The statement referred to in subsection (1) may be

(a) in popular language without technical averments or allegations of matters that are not essential to be proved;
(b) in the words of the enactment that describes the offence or declares the matters charged to be an indictable offence; or
(c) in words that are sufficient to give to the accused notice of the offence with which he is charged.

Reference to section
(5) A count may refer to any section, subsection, paragraph or subparagraph of the enactment that creates the offence charged, and for the purpose of determining whether a count is sufficient, consideration shall be given to any such reference.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 581; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 118.


  1. R v Cisar, 2014 ONCA 151 (CanLII) at para 11
    R v Cancor Software Corp. (1990), 1990 CanLII 6817 (ON CA), 74 O.R. (2d) 65 (CA)
    R v Lucas, 1983 CanLII 2948 (NS SC), (1983), 57 NSR (2d) 159 (S.C. App. Div.)

Unreasonable Delay

This right prohibits "unreasonable delay". The analysis of delay considers the same factors as delay under s. 11(b):[1]

  1. length of delay;
  2. reasons for delay;
  3. waiver of any time periods; and
  4. prejudice to the accused.
  1. R v Cisar, 2014 ONCA 151 (CanLII) at paras 12 to 27
    R v Delaronde, 1997 CanLII 404 (SCC), [1997] 1 SCR 213

See Also