There’s an important legal principle that says “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” That’s right: you can’t defend your actions by arguing you didn’t know they were illegal, even if you honestly did not realize you were breaking the law.
Knowing the Law
Under our legal system, Canadians are expected to know what the law says. But this doesn’t mean we all have to be legal experts. It’s not realistic for everyone to memorize all the laws! Not even lawyers know all this information.
The rule “ignorance of the law is no excuse” really means that people can’t defend their actions by claiming they didn’t know the law.
It would be too easy for people to break a contract, ignore a neighbour’s right to privacy or sell drugs if they could get away with it by arguing they didn’t know it was against the law.
However, even when people have good intentions, they sometimes break the law because they don’t realize they are doing something illegal. This can happen because our legal system is complicated. When people have good intentions, judges can sometimes be understanding. Judges are less understanding when the actions involve certain kinds of crimes.
So, you can see how important it is to make sure to respect the law. To get information about the law, there are several things you can do:
- contact a lawyer or notary
- consult legal information websites, such as Éducaloi’s
- use services offered by the Quebec government, such as the websites of Services Québec and Justice Québec (Quebec justice department)
It’s never too soon to learn about your legal rights and responsibilities.