Criminal harassment, better known as stalking, is an offence in Canada and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. These charges are often laid in conjunction with other charges such as uttering threats, mischief and assault.
In order to convict an accused of criminal harassment, the Crown must establish that the accused knowingly harassed or was reckless as to whether the complainant was being harassed by engaging in conduct that caused the complainant to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of others.
The Criminal Code has codified the prohibited conduct that is considered criminal harassment under section 264(2), which reads:
The conduct mentioned in subsection (1) consists of
- repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
- repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
- besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
- engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.
The wording of this provisions states that an accused can be charged with criminal harassment even when that is not the intention. All that is needed is for the complainant to fear for their safety as a result of the accused engaging in one of the above prohibited acts and being reckless to the fact that their conduct may be harassing.