Can You Face Charges in Canada for a Crime Committed Outside the Country?

In the News

It’s sometimes said that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. But is that actually true? Can a Canadian who commits a crime in another country just forget about it once they’re back home? Or may they have to “face the music” here in Canada?

No charges in Canada, except…

In general, people cannot face charges in Canada for a crime committed in another country. Of course, Canadians can be charged with a crime in the country where it was committed!

Exceptionally, for certain crimes, a person can be charged in Canada for acts committed outside the country. This is notably the case for:

  • Sexual offences involving children. For example, a person produced child pornography and sexually abused children while in the Dominican Republic. The person was charged and found guilty of these crimes in Canada.
  • Acts of terrorism.
  • Crimes related to human trafficking.
  • Certain crimes committed on a flight to or from Canada. For example, a Canadian who commits an armed sexual assault on a flight that took off from Canada could be charged in Canada.

For some crimes, specific conditions must be met for the person to face charges in Canada. For example, the accused may have to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or they may have to be present in Canada after the crime, or the victim may have to be a Canadian citizen, or the Attorney General may have to authorize the charges.

Facing justice in Canada

The accused person must be present in Canada – and in court – during the legal proceedings. A person in another country can sometimes be forced to return to Canada. This process is known as extradition. A judge can also issue a warrant for someone to be arrested if they should ever enter Canada in the future.