What is the history of the 1955 Criminal Code Revision?
Last revised April 16, 2018

The first Canadian criminal code was enacted in 1892. The legislation was based on an English bill, drafted in the U.K. in 1878 by James Stephen . The bill died on the order paper following second reading in the House of Commons. By the time the Canadian code was incorporated into the Revised Statutes of Canada 1927, it had grown to 1152 sections. In 1949, a commission was established to revise the code. See below for a chronological history of the revision, from the creation of the revision commission to the draft legislation and eventual enactment of the new code.

Legislative history 1949-1955

Date

Legislative body

Document

description

February 3, 1949

Criminal Code Revision Commission established

P.C. 1949 - 527

Establishes the commission and appoints members of the committee

September 26, 1950

Commission reorganized

P.C. 68/4633

May 10, 1951

Second commission established

P.C. 2275

Committee given terms of reference and authorized to prepare draft bill

February 22, 1952

Minister of Justice

Report of royal commission on the revision of criminal code presented to the Minister of Justice

Report contains draft legislation

April 7, 1952

House of Commons

Report tabled by Minister of Justice[i]

May 12, 1952

Senate

Bill H-8,[ii] An act respecting Criminal Law introduced

See comments by Minister of Justice on decision regarding Senate review prior to introduction in House of Commons[iii]

May 15, 1952

Senate

Bill H-8 referred to Senate Banking and Commerce Committee subcommittee

June 20, 1952

Senate

Report of Senate Banking and Commerce Committee subcommittee

“Recommend bill not be further proceeded with at the present session” [iv]

Summer 1952

Department of Justice

Department of Justice revises bill

November 20, 1952

Parliament recalled

7th  session, 21st Parliament

November 24, 1952

Senate

Bill O (letter), An Act respecting Criminal Law, introduced

Identical to House of Commons Bill 93 introduced later in the session

November 25, 1952

Senate

Bill O referred to Senate Banking and Commerce Committee subcommittee

December 16, 1952

Senate

Report of Senate Banking and Commerce Committee subcommittee[v]

Reported with 116 amendments, see appendix [vi]

December 17, 1952

Senate

Bill O third reading[vii]

Passed with additional amendments

January 13, 1953

House of Commons

Bill 93, An Act respecting Criminal Law, introduced[viii]

Identical to Bill Letter O (Senate)

January 23, 1953

House of Commons

Bill 93 second reading[ix]

Text in Hansard summarizes revision process, lists members of committees, contains short discussion on some amendments and acknowledges extensive Senate work on revision[x]

January 23, 1953

House of Commons

Bill 93 Referred to special committee[xi]

February 5, 1953

House of Commons

First report of the special committee tabled[xii]

Procedural matters for committee set down

May 1, 1953

House of Commons

Second report tabled[xiii]

Clause by clause review

May 4, 1953

House of Commons

Third/final report tabled[xiv]

Summer 1953

Parliamentary session ends

Election called.

Bill 93 dies on order paper.

November 12, 1953

Parliament resumes

1st Session, 22nd Parliament

November 16, 1953

House of Commons

Bill 7, An Act respecting Criminal Law, introduction & first reading[xv]

Bill 7 “is the same bill as that which was passed … December 1952 with amendments as recommend by the special committee in May 1953” [xvi]

December 15, 1953

House of Commons

Bill 7, 2nd reading[xvii]

January – April 1954

House of Commons

Committee of the whole reviews Bill 7

Clause by clause debate

April 8, 1954

House of Commons

Bill 7 passed with amendments[xviii]

May 1954

Senate

Bill 7, as amended, referred back to the Senate for approval

Debated by Senate and special committee.

Passed with “less than a dozen relatively minor amendments” [xix]

June 15, 1954

House of Commons

Bill 7 returned to House of Commons [xx]

Senate amendments accepted

June 26, 1954

Bill 7 receives Royal Assent

Criminal Code, S.C.1953-54, c. 51

April 1, 1955

Criminal Code, S.C. 1953-54, c. 51 proclamation[xxi]

[i] Sessional paper 66b - 1952

[ii]  Bill missing from our print collection, reprinted Senate Debates, (May 14, 1952) at 226

[iii] Senate Debates, (May 13, 1952) at 207 (Hon. Stuart S. Garson, Q.C. Minister of Justice)

[iv] Senate Debates, (June 20, 1952) at 479

[v] Senate Debates, (December 16, 1952) at 146

[vi] Senate Debates, (December 16, 1952) at 153

[vii] Senate Debates, (December 17, 1952) 161 to 168

[viii] House of Commons Debates (January 13, 1953) at 931

[ix] House of Commons Debates (January 23, 1953) 1272 to 1278, 1287 to 1302

[x] House of Commons Debates (January 23, 1953) 1272 to 1276, 1301 to 1302

[xi] House of Commons Debates (January 23, 1953) at 1303

[xii] Royal Commission Report reprint, p. 47

[xiii] Royal Commission Report reprint, p. 48

[xiv] Royal Commission Report reprint, p.61

[xv] House of Commons Debates, 1953-54 Session page 32

[xvi] House of Commons Debates, 1953-54 Session page 946 (Hon. Stuart S. Garson, Q.C.)

[xvii] House of Commons Debates, 1953-54 Session p.939-943 (Hon. Stuart S. Garson, Q.C.)

[xviii] House of Commons Debates, 1953-54 Session, p. 3920-3927

[xix] MacLeod, A.J. and Martin, J. C. The Revision of the Criminal Code, (1955) 33 Canadian Bar Review 3

[xx] House of Commons Debates, 1953-54 Session, p. 5973-5979

[xxi] Canada Gazette. 1954.I.3297, 1954.10.2, also printed in extra 1954.9.20

 

References

· Canada. Royal Commission on the Revision of the Criminal Code. Report of Royal Commission on the Revision of the Criminal Code. Ottawa: Queens Printer, 1954 (available in the Vancouver Courthouse Library)
This 1954 reprint includes the commission report, table of contents for the draft bill, four reports of the special committee of the House of Commons and concordance tables.

· Law Reform Commission of Canada. Recodifying Criminal Law, volume 1. Report 30. Ottawa: LRC, 1986 (available in most BC courthouse libraries) 

· Law Reform Commission of Canada. Recodifying Criminal Law. Report 31. Ottawa: LRC, 1987 (available in most BC courthouse libraries)
- Revised and enlarged edition of Report 30

· Martin, William M. Revision of the Criminal Code. (1949) 27 Canadian Bar Review 707 (No. 6) (available in Vancouver, regional and other courthouse libraries)
Lists the committee members and the intention of the review.

· MacLeod, A.J. and Martin, J. C. The Revision of the Criminal Code, (1955) 33 Canadian Bar Review 3 (No. 1) (available in Vancouver, regional and other courthouse libraries)
- Overview includes key dates.