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Canada Evidence Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-5)

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Act current to 2021-11-17 and last amended on 2019-07-12. Previous Versions

Canada Evidence Act

R.S.C., 1985, c. C-5

An Act respecting witnesses and evidence

Short Title

Marginal note:Short title

 This Act may be cited as the Canada Evidence Act.

  • R.S., c. E-10, s. 1

Part I

Application

Marginal note:Application

 This Part applies to all criminal proceedings and to all civil proceedings and other matters whatever respecting which Parliament has jurisdiction.

  • R.S., c. E-10, s. 2

Witnesses

Marginal note:Interest or crime

 A person is not incompetent to give evidence by reason of interest or crime.

  • R.S., c. E-10, s. 3

Marginal note:Accused and spouse

  •  (1) Every person charged with an offence, and, except as otherwise provided in this section, the wife or husband, as the case may be, of the person so charged, is a competent witness for the defence, whether the person so charged is charged solely or jointly with any other person.

  • Marginal note:Spouse of accused

    (2) No person is incompetent, or uncompellable, to testify for the prosecution by reason only that they are married to the accused.

  • Marginal note:Communications during marriage

    (3) No husband is compellable to disclose any communication made to him by his wife during their marriage, and no wife is compellable to disclose any communication made to her by her husband during their marriage.

  • (4) and (5) [Repealed, 2015, c. 13, s. 52]

  • Marginal note:Failure to testify

    (6) The failure of the person charged, or of the wife or husband of that person, to testify shall not be made the subject of comment by the judge or by counsel for the prosecution.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 4
  • R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 17
  • 2002, c. 1, s. 166
  • 2014, c. 25, s. 34, c. 31, s. 27
  • 2015, c. 13, s. 52

Marginal note:Incriminating questions

  •  (1) No witness shall be excused from answering any question on the ground that the answer to the question may tend to criminate him, or may tend to establish his liability to a civil proceeding at the instance of the Crown or of any person.

  • Marginal note:Answer not admissible against witness

    (2) Where with respect to any question a witness objects to answer on the ground that his answer may tend to criminate him, or may tend to establish his liability to a civil proceeding at the instance of the Crown or of any person, and if but for this Act, or the Act of any provincial legislature, the witness would therefore have been excused from answering the question, then although the witness is by reason of this Act or the provincial Act compelled to answer, the answer so given shall not be used or admissible in evidence against him in any criminal trial or other criminal proceeding against him thereafter taking place, other than a prosecution for perjury in the giving of that evidence or for the giving of contradictory evidence.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 5
  • 1997, c. 18, s. 116

Marginal note:Evidence of person with physical disability

  •  (1) If a witness has difficulty communicating by reason of a physical disability, the court may order that the witness be permitted to give evidence by any means that enables the evidence to be intelligible.

  • Marginal note:Evidence of person with mental disability

    (2) If a witness with a mental disability is determined under section 16 to have the capacity to give evidence and has difficulty communicating by reason of a disability, the court may order that the witness be permitted to give evidence by any means that enables the evidence to be intelligible.

  • Marginal note:Inquiry

    (3) The court may conduct an inquiry to determine if the means by which a witness may be permitted to give evidence under subsection (1) or (2) is necessary and reliable.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 6
  • 1998, c. 9, s. 1

Marginal note:Identification of accused

 For greater certainty, a witness may give evidence as to the identity of an accused whom the witness is able to identify visually or in any other sensory manner.

  • 1998, c. 9, s. 1

Marginal note:Expert witnesses

 Where, in any trial or other proceeding, criminal or civil, it is intended by the prosecution or the defence, or by any party, to examine as witnesses professional or other experts entitled according to the law or practice to give opinion evidence, not more than five of such witnesses may be called on either side without the leave of the court or judge or person presiding.

  • R.S., c. E-10, s. 7

Marginal note:Handwriting comparison

 Comparison of a disputed writing with any writing proved to the satisfaction of the court to be genuine shall be permitted to be made by witnesses, and such writings, and the evidence of witnesses respecting those writings, may be submitted to the court and jury as proof of the genuineness or otherwise of the writing in dispute.

  • R.S., c. E-10, s. 8

Marginal note:Adverse witnesses

  •  (1) A party producing a witness shall not be allowed to impeach his credit by general evidence of bad character, but if the witness, in the opinion of the court, proves adverse, the party may contradict him by other evidence, or, by leave of the court, may prove that the witness made at other times a statement inconsistent with his present testimony, but before the last mentioned proof can be given the circumstances of the supposed statement, sufficient to designate the particular occasion, shall be mentioned to the witness, and he shall be asked whether or not he did make the statement.

  • Marginal note:Previous statements by witness not proved adverse

    (2) Where the party producing a witness alleges that the witness made at other times a statement in writing, reduced to writing, or recorded on audio tape or video tape or otherwise, inconsistent with the witness’ present testimony, the court may, without proof that the witness is adverse, grant leave to that party to cross-examine the witness as to the statement and the court may consider the cross-examination in determining whether in the opinion of the court the witness is adverse.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 9
  • 1994, c. 44, s. 85

Marginal note:Cross-examination as to previous statements

  •  (1) On any trial a witness may be cross-examined as to previous statements that the witness made in writing, or that have been reduced to writing, or recorded on audio tape or video tape or otherwise, relative to the subject-matter of the case, without the writing being shown to the witness or the witness being given the opportunity to listen to the audio tape or view the video tape or otherwise take cognizance of the statements, but, if it is intended to contradict the witness, the witness’ attention must, before the contradictory proof can be given, be called to those parts of the statement that are to be used for the purpose of so contradicting the witness, and the judge, at any time during the trial, may require the production of the writing or tape or other medium for inspection, and thereupon make such use of it for the purposes of the trial as the judge thinks fit.

  • Marginal note:Deposition of witness in criminal investigation

    (2) A deposition of a witness, purporting to have been taken before a justice on the investigation of a criminal charge and to be signed by the witness and the justice, returned to and produced from the custody of the proper officer shall be presumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to have been signed by the witness.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 10
  • 1994, c. 44, s. 86

Marginal note:Cross-examination as to previous oral statements

 Where a witness, on cross-examination as to a former statement made by him relative to the subject-matter of the case and inconsistent with his present testimony, does not distinctly admit that he did make the statement, proof may be given that he did in fact make it, but before that proof can be given the circumstances of the supposed statement, sufficient to designate the particular occasion, shall be mentioned to the witness, and he shall be asked whether or not he did make the statement.

  • R.S., c. E-10, s. 11

Marginal note:Examination as to previous convictions

  •  (1) A witness may be questioned as to whether the witness has been convicted of any offence, excluding any offence designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act, but including such an offence where the conviction was entered after a trial on an indictment.

  • Marginal note:Proof of previous convictions

    (1.1) If the witness either denies the fact or refuses to answer, the opposite party may prove the conviction.

  • Marginal note:How conviction proved

    (2) A conviction may be proved by producing

    • (a) a certificate containing the substance and effect only, omitting the formal part, of the indictment and conviction, if it is for an indictable offence, or a copy of the summary conviction, if it is for an offence punishable on summary conviction, purporting to be signed by the clerk of the court or other officer having the custody of the records of the court in which the conviction, if on indictment, was had, or to which the conviction, if summary, was returned; and

    • (b) proof of identity.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 12
  • 1992, c. 47, s. 66

Oaths and Solemn Affirmations

Marginal note:Who may administer oaths

 Every court and judge, and every person having, by law or consent of parties, authority to hear and receive evidence, has power to administer an oath to every witness who is legally called to give evidence before that court, judge or person.

  • R.S., c. E-10, s. 13

Marginal note:Solemn affirmation by witness instead of oath

  •  (1) A person may, instead of taking an oath, make the following solemn affirmation:

    I solemnly affirm that the evidence to be given by me shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  • Marginal note:Effect

    (2) Where a person makes a solemn affirmation in accordance with subsection (1), his evidence shall be taken and have the same effect as if taken under oath.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 14
  • 1994, c. 44, s. 87

Marginal note:Solemn affirmation by deponent

  •  (1) Where a person who is required or who desires to make an affidavit or deposition in a proceeding or on an occasion on which or concerning a matter respecting which an oath is required or is lawful, whether on the taking of office or otherwise, does not wish to take an oath, the court or judge, or other officer or person qualified to take affidavits or depositions, shall permit the person to make a solemn affirmation in the words following, namely, “I, blank line, do solemnly affirm, etc.”, and that solemn affirmation has the same force and effect as if that person had taken an oath.

  • Marginal note:Effect

    (2) Any witness whose evidence is admitted or who makes a solemn affirmation under this section or section 14 is liable to indictment and punishment for perjury in all respects as if he had been sworn.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 15
  • 1994, c. 44, s. 88

Marginal note:Witness whose capacity is in question

  •  (1) If a proposed witness is a person of fourteen years of age or older whose mental capacity is challenged, the court shall, before permitting the person to give evidence, conduct an inquiry to determine

    • (a) whether the person understands the nature of an oath or a solemn affirmation; and

    • (b) whether the person is able to communicate the evidence.

  • Marginal note:Testimony under oath or solemn affirmation

    (2) A person referred to in subsection (1) who understands the nature of an oath or a solemn affirmation and is able to communicate the evidence shall testify under oath or solemn affirmation.

  • Marginal note:Testimony on promise to tell truth

    (3) A person referred to in subsection (1) who does not understand the nature of an oath or a solemn affirmation but is able to communicate the evidence may, notwithstanding any provision of any Act requiring an oath or a solemn affirmation, testify on promising to tell the truth.

  • Marginal note:No questions regarding understanding of promise

    (3.1) A person referred to in subsection (3) shall not be asked any questions regarding their understanding of the nature of the promise to tell the truth for the purpose of determining whether their evidence shall be received by the court.

  • Marginal note:Inability to testify

    (4) A person referred to in subsection (1) who neither understands the nature of an oath or a solemn affirmation nor is able to communicate the evidence shall not testify.

  • Marginal note:Burden as to capacity of witness

    (5) A party who challenges the mental capacity of a proposed witness of fourteen years of age or more has the burden of satisfying the court that there is an issue as to the capacity of the proposed witness to testify under an oath or a solemn affirmation.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 16
  • R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 18
  • 1994, c. 44, s. 89
  • 2005, c. 32, s. 26
  • 2015, c. 13, s. 53

Marginal note:Person under fourteen years of age

  •  (1) A person under fourteen years of age is presumed to have the capacity to testify.

  • Marginal note:No oath or solemn affirmation

    (2) A proposed witness under fourteen years of age shall not take an oath or make a solemn affirmation despite a provision of any Act that requires an oath or a solemn affirmation.

  • Marginal note:Evidence shall be received

    (3) The evidence of a proposed witness under fourteen years of age shall be received if they are able to understand and respond to questions.

  • Marginal note:Burden as to capacity of witness

    (4) A party who challenges the capacity of a proposed witness under fourteen years of age has the burden of satisfying the court that there is an issue as to the capacity of the proposed witness to understand and respond to questions.

  • Marginal note:Court inquiry

    (5) If the court is satisfied that there is an issue as to the capacity of a proposed witness under fourteen years of age to understand and respond to questions, it shall, before permitting them to give evidence, conduct an inquiry to determine whether they are able to understand and respond to questions.

  • Marginal note:Promise to tell truth

    (6) The court shall, before permitting a proposed witness under fourteen years of age to give evidence, require them to promise to tell the truth.

  • Marginal note:Understanding of promise

    (7) No proposed witness under fourteen years of age shall be asked any questions regarding their understanding of the nature of the promise to tell the truth for the purpose of determining whether their evidence shall be received by the court.

  • Marginal note:Effect

    (8) For greater certainty, if the evidence of a witness under fourteen years of age is received by the court, it shall have the same effect as if it were taken under oath.

  • 2005, c. 32, s. 27

Judicial Notice

Marginal note:Imperial Acts, etc.

 Judicial notice shall be taken of all Acts of the Imperial Parliament, of all ordinances made by the Governor in Council, or the lieutenant governor in council of any province or colony that, or some portion of which, now forms or hereafter may form part of Canada, and of all the Acts of the legislature of any such province or colony, whether enacted before or after the passing of the Constitution Act, 1867.

  • R.S., c. E-10, s. 17
 
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