Canadian tort law is composed of two parallel systems: a common law framework outside Québec and a civil law framework within Québec. Outside Québec, Canadian tort law originally derives from that of England and Wales but has developed distinctly since Canadian Confederation in 1867 and has been influenced by jurisprudence in other common law jurisdictions. Meanwhile, while private law as a whole in Québec was originally derived from that which existed in France at the time of Québec's annexation into the British Empire, it was overhauled and codified first in the Civil Code of Lower Canada and later in the current Civil Code of Quebec, which codifies most elements of tort law as part of its provisions on the broader law of obligations. As most aspects of tort law in Canada are the subject of provincial jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution, tort law varies even between the country's common law provinces and territories.

In the country's common law provinces, a tort consists of a wrongful acts or injury that lead to physical, emotional, or financial damage to a person in which another person could be held legally responsible.[1] The two main subcategories of tort law are intentional torts and unintentional torts. Similarly in Québec, there are four conditions necessary for a finding of civil liability under the CCQ:[2]

The defendant in a tort suit is called the tortfeasor, and most often, financial compensation is what tort victims acquire.[3] All torts require proof of fault in order to determine legal responsibility, however, fault is measured differently for the different types of tort.[3] There are criminal code offences in Canada that could also qualify as tort law under common law. However, most victims do not sue those who are criminally charged since the accused do not have the financial means to pay back the victim or because the accused is incarcerated.[4]

Common law provinces

Main article: Outline of tort law

Torts in the common law provinces are composed of statutory torts, where civil liability is established by a provincial statute, and common law torts, where civil liability for a particular course of conduct is established by judicial precedent. Common law torts in Canada were primarily inherited from the law of England and Wales by reception statutes enacted in the various provinces and territories, such as Ontario's Property and Civil Rights Act,[5] but have since developed independently as local courts established new precedent; the legislatures modified, codified, or eliminated torts inherited from English jurisprudence; and jurisprudence from other jurisdictions influenced Canadian courts, as was notably the case with the influence of the Scots law decision in Donoghue v Stevenson in shaping product liability law in Canada and in other common law jurisdictions.[6] As in other common law jurisdictions, Canadian torts can broadly be divided into negligence, property torts, dignitary torts, economic torts, and torts (trespass) against the person.

Torts against the person

Torts (trespass) against the person includes torts that causes physical harm to the complainant, such as:


Negligence is a cause of action leading to relief designed to protect legal rights[a] from actions which, although unintentional, nevertheless cause some form of legal harm to the plaintiff. In the common law provinces, there are four elements of negligence required for a particular course of conduct to be considered tortious:[10]

In the common law provinces, courts have restricted the types of damage for which a plaintiff may seek monetary compensation. For instance, pure economic loss may only lead to monetary compensation in a limited set of circumstances established by precedent; at present, these are 1) negligent misrepresentation or performance of a service, 2) negligent supply of shoddy goods or structures, and 3) relational economic loss between parties to a contract.[11][12] Even where a plaintiff demonstrates that the conduct complained of falls within the circumstances in which pure economic loss may be recovered, they must demonstrate that they were in a "sufficiently proximate relationship" with the respondent.[12] Prior to the ruling in Cooper v. Hobart in 2001, this analysis was grounded in mere foreseeability of injury; however, following the ruling, both the proximity of the parties' relationship and foreseeability of injury must be proved.[12] Per the ruling in Cooper, courts in the common law province apply a two-step analytical framework based on the Anns test previously applied in England and Wales under which a court will award damages for pure economic loss where the conduct falls within the established categories established by present and, if the conduct does not fall into any established category, will then proceed to examine public policy reasons for and against the recognition of a new duty of care.[11]

In the case of Hill v. Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police Services Board, Mr. Hill was charged with ten counts of robbery, however, he was soon acquitted of all charges. After the charges were dropped, he then sued Hamilton's police service as well as some of the officers who were involved in his arrest. Hill argued that the police were negligent in conducting a thorough investigation because the police officers did not properly interview the witnesses, which ultimately led to his arrest. Hill's lawsuit was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada because there was not enough evidence to support Hill's findings that the police were negligent in their duty or standard of care. What is important to note about this particular trial is that three out of the nine Supreme Court Judges did not view the negligent tort claim as being lawful or practical because a strict duty of care towards suspects would therefore interfere with how the police operate in terms of apprehending offenders and investigating crimes.[13]

Property torts

Property torts are civil causes of action aimed at seeking damages for interference with a plaintiff's property, including both immovable property and movable property or chattel. The most significant torts within this category are the two categories of trespass to property:

The other property torts extant in the common law provinces are:

Dignitary torts

Main article: Canadian defamation law

Dignitary torts are a specific category of torts where the cause of action is being subjected to certain types of indignities. The most notable dignitary torts in the common law provinces are libel and slander; however, this category also includes torts pertaining to privacy and to vexatious litigation.

Economic torts

Economic torts are a specific category of torts that provide the common law rules on liability which arise out of business transactions such as interference with economic or business relationships and are likely to involve pure economic loss. Also called business torts.


Private law in the Canadian province of Québec at the time of its annexation by the British Empire was originally derived from pre-Napoleonic French law but was eventually codified in the Civil Code of Lower Canada and later the present Code Civil du Québec (CCQ). The CCQ provides for broad and generally open-ended "civil liability" or la responsabilité civile in article 1457:[22]

Every person has a duty to abide by the rules of conduct incumbent on him, according to the circumstances, usage or law, so as not to cause injury to another. Where he is endowed with reason and fails in this duty, he is liable for any injury he causes to another by such fault and is bound to make reparation for the injury, whether it be bodily, moral or material in nature. He is also bound, in certain cases, to make reparation for injury caused to another by the act, omission or fault of another person or by the act of things in his custody.

The CCQ provides for and defines the scope of civil liability for damages caused by inanimate objects. Article 1465 makes the general provision that the custodian of a thing or object (bien) is liable for any damage caused by it,[23] while article 1466 provides that the owner of an animal is liable for damage or injury caused by it even if it had escaped from their custody at the time of the incident. Similarly, article 1467 imposes liability for damages caused by the ruin of an immovable (i.e. a building or other fixed structure) upon its owner even if construction defects are the ultimate cause of the ruin.[24] Strict liability is imposed upon the manufacturers of moveable things (i.e. product liability) by article 1468 for injuries caused by safety defects.[25][c] An individual is exempt from civil liability in cases of force majeure (article 1470),[27] harm caused in the process of assisting or rescuing another (article 1471),[28] and in certain other cases prescribed by law.

Privacy and reputational rights

An important aspect of civil liability law in Québec is the individual right to privacy and dignity. In title two of book one, the CCQ provides for a series of rights comparable to but broader than the privacy torts extant in both the common law provinces and in France and other jurisdictions with civil codes based on the Napoleonic Code. Chapter III provides that "every person has a right to the respect of his reputation and privacy" and that the acts which may be considered invasions of an individual's privacy include:[29]

Additionally, a person may not collect data regarding another individual without a "serious and legitimate reason", must only collect "information which is relevant to the stated objective", and may not provide such information to third parties or use it for reasons unrelated to the objective; furthermore, in the process of gathering or using such information, one may not "invade the privacy or injure the reputation" of the individual.[30] In addition to the broad tortious liability established by these principles, the chapter also creates a cause of action for individual's to inspect and sue for the rectification of inaccurate information concerning them.[31]

This, together with the general liability established under article 1457, forms the basis for defamation and invasion of privacy as causes of action in Québec. To establish civil liability for defamation, the plaintiff must establish, on a balance of probabilities, the existence of an injury, a wrongful act, and of a causal connection between the two. A person who has made defamatory remarks will not necessarily be civilly liable for them. The plaintiff must further demonstrate that the person who made the remarks committed a wrongful act. Therefore, communicating false information is not, in itself, a wrongful act.[32] In 1994, the Court of Appeal of Quebec held that defamation in Québec must be governed by a reasonableness standard, as opposed to the strict liability standard that was applicable at the time in the common law provinces; a defendant who made a false statement would not be held liable if it was reasonable to believe the statement was true.[33] Later, in upholding the "responsible communication" defence in Grant v. Torstar, the Supreme Court of Canada extended this standard to the country's common law provinces as well.


  1. ^ Allen, Bill Van (2009). Police powers : law, order and accountability. Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 43. ISBN 9780132429825.
  2. ^ Baudouin, Jean-louis. "Law of Delict in Québec". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 23 September 2016, Historica Canada. [ PDF] Accessed 27 May 2022.
  3. ^ a b Rock, Nora; Hoag, Valerie (2011). Foundations of criminal and civil law in Canada (3rd ed.). Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications. p. 165. ISBN 9781552393833.
  4. ^ Goff, Colin (2011). Criminal justice in Canada (5th ed.). Toronto: Nelson Education. pp. 21. ISBN 9780176501730.
  5. ^ Property and Civil Rights Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.29
  6. ^ "Donoghue v Stevenson". Canadian Underwriter. Retrieved 2022-10-11.
  7. ^ See Bruce v Dyer (1966) 58 DLR (2d) 211
  8. ^ See Bettel v. Yim
  9. ^ Rock, Nora; Hoag, Valerie (2011). Foundations of criminal and civil law in Canada (3rd ed.). Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications. p. 170. ISBN 9781552393833.
  10. ^ "The Elements of Negligence". Mann Lawyers. Retrieved 2022-10-11.
  11. ^ a b Cooper v. Hobart, [2001] 3 S.C.R. 537, 2001 SCC 79
  12. ^ a b c 1688782 Ontario Inc. v. Maple Leaf Foods Inc., 2020 SCC 35
  13. ^ Allen, Bill Van (2009). Police powers : law, order and accountability. Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 255. ISBN 9780132429825.
  14. ^ Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21
  15. ^ "Privacy Act". Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  16. ^ Justice, Manitoba. "Manitoba Laws". Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  17. ^ "RSNL1990 CHAPTER P-22 - PRIVACY ACT". Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  18. ^ "Privacy Act (Saskatchewan)" (PDF).
  19. ^ See "Jones v Tsige", 2012 ONCA 32
  20. ^ See Ari v Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2013 BCSC 1308. [1]
  21. ^ Honda Canada Inc. v. Keays, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 362, 2008 SCC 39
  22. ^ Civil Code of Québec 1457
  23. ^ Civil Code of Québec 1465
  24. ^ Civil Code of Québec] 1467
  25. ^ Civil Code of Québec 1468
  26. ^ Civil Code of Québec 1469
  27. ^ Civil Code of Québec 1470
  28. ^ Civil Code of Québec 1471
  29. ^ Civil Code of Québec 35-36
  30. ^ Civil Code of Québec 37
  31. ^ Civil Code of Québec 38-41
  32. ^ Prud'homme v. Prud'homme, 2002 SCC 85 at par. 35, [2002] 4 SCR 663 (20 December 2002), Supreme Court (Canada)
  33. ^ Crookes v. Newton, 2011 SCC 47, [2011] 3 SCR 269 (19 October 2011), Supreme Court (Canada)


  1. ^ Depending on province, this includes those of personal safety, property, and intangible economic interests or noneconomic interests such as the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress
  2. ^ Four provinces, British Columbia,[15] Manitoba,[16] Newfoundland[17] and Saskatchewan[18] have created a statutory tort. Ontario has recognized the existence of the tort of invasion of privacy called "intrusion upon seclusion".[19] British Columbia, on the other hand, has held that the tort does not exist in that province under the common law.[20] There was some debate over whether there was a common law tort of discrimination. This was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court in Bhadauria v. Seneca College. This issue was further examined by the court through Honda Canada Inc. v. Keays, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 362, 2008 SCC 39[21]
  3. ^ Article 1469 provides that: "A thing has a safety defect where, having regard to all the circumstances, it does not afford the safety which a person is normally entitled to expect, particularly by reason of a defect in design or manufacture, poor preservation or presentation, or the lack of sufficient indications as to the risks and dangers it involves or as to the means to avoid them".[26]

Further reading