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Overview of Canadian Law Structure

In Canada the power to make criminal law is exclusively federal, but provinces can create offences necessary for matters over which they have jurisdiction. This includes "property and civil rights", which most provinces have used to regulate local commerce and deceptive trade practices.

Fraud and other federal Criminal Code offences are prosecuted by the Provincial Attorneys General, but federal offences under other statutes (Competition Act, Income Tax Act, Customs Act, Telecommunications Act) are prosecuted federally. 1997 Criminal Code changes created a new federal jurisdiction to prosecute Criminal Code offences committed by "criminal organizations", which would include most telemarketing cases.

Prosecutors in Canada have to file a separate legal case for every individual the telemarketers defrauded. By contrast, in the United States, legal authorities can bundle all individual instances of fraud into one massive case.

Provincial offences. Canadian provinces have no power to enact criminal law, but may create offences dealing with "property and civil rights", which includes many commercial activities. Eight of the ten provinces have enacted offence and regulatory provisions dealing with unfair or deceptive trade practices.

These are minor in comparison with the Criminal Code fraud offences and punishments, but are also subject to a lower procedural standard under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which makes them easier to prosecute.

Maximum fines range from C$2,000-$100,000, with imprisonment up to three years. Conduct such as inflating prices or taking advantage of particularly vulnerable consumers, not usually elements of fraud, are included in several.

 

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