Weapons and Firearms
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Facing Firearms or Weapons Charges? Trust Winnipeg's Premier Defence Lawyers

Facing weapons charges in Winnipeg? The consequences can be life-altering. With potential consequences, including severe prison sentences, you need an experienced defence lawyer who understands the intricacies of firearms laws and can navigate the charges associated with violating these laws.

At Wiebe Criminal Defence, our team brings years of focused experience defending clients against a wide range of weapons charges. We fight tirelessly to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Trust us to handle your case with the seriousness and dedication it demands.

What Is a Weapon?

Under Section 2 of the Criminal Code of Canada, a weapon is defined as any object used, designed to be used, or intended for use to cause death, injury, or to threaten or intimidate a person. This legal definition is broad, capturing a wide range of objects not typically considered weapons in the conventional sense, but which can be classified as such based on their intended use in specific contexts. For example, everyday objects like a set of keys, a remote control, or even a cup of coffee could be classified as weapons if they are used or intended to be used to cause injury or to threaten or intimidate someone.

Furthermore, many items are explicitly designated as restricted or prohibited weapons under Section 84(1) of the Criminal Code, adding layers of legal complexity to cases involving such objects. If you’re charged with a weapons offence, It’s important that you understand that the classification of an object as a weapon can significantly influence the legal proceedings and potential outcomes of your case.

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What Is a Firearm?

The Criminal Code defines a firearm as any barreled weapon capable of discharging any shot, bullet or other projectile that can cause serious bodily injury or death to a person. It includes any frame or receiver of such a barrelled weapon and anything that can be adapted for use as a firearm. This definition encompasses a range of firearms, from handguns and rifles to shotguns and automatic firearms. 

Firearms are further categorized based on their specifications and intended use, requiring different levels of licensing for possession, underscoring the necessity of complying with stringent regulations. Moreover, certain types of firearms are restricted while others may be completely prohibited for civilian use.

Understanding Different Classes of Firearms in Canada

In Canada, there are three main classes of firearms: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Each class carries specific requirements for licensing, safe handling, and permitted uses. Understanding these classes is crucial for anyone who interacts with firearms in Canada. Let’s start with the most common type: non-restricted firearms.


Non-Restricted Firearms

Non-restricted firearms in Canada refer to those firearms that do not fall under the definitions of either prohibited or restricted firearms in the Code. They typically include hunting and sporting rifles, shotguns, and airguns with an overall length of 660mm or greater. These firearms are subject to less stringent controls than restricted or prohibited firearms, mainly due to their longer barrel lengths and less hazardous firing capabilities.


Restricted Firearm

A restricted firearm in Canada is defined under Section 84(1) of the Criminal Code. It includes handguns and firearms that are not included in the definition of a prohibited firearm, has a barrel length of less than 470 mm, and can discharge center-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner. 

This category also extends to firearms that can be adapted to a shorter length, by folding, telescoping or otherwise. Owners of restricted firearms must adhere to more rigorous regulations, including obtaining a specific license and adhering to strict guidelines on storage, transportation, and use.


Prohibited Firearm

Prohibited firearms in Canada are those generally illegal for civilian ownership because they are deemed dangerous or pose a significant risk to public safety.  This category includes handguns with barrels shorter than 105mm or those designed to fire .25 or .32 calibre ammunition (with an exception for handguns specifically prescribed for use in international sporting competitions governed by the rules of the International Shooting Union).

Additionally, rifles or shotguns that have been altered (such as by sawing or cutting) to become significantly shorter than their original design are prohibited, with specific length restrictions in place. Moreover, automatic firearms, those that continue to fire with a single trigger pull, are also prohibited.

The government maintains the power to specifically designate certain firearms as prohibited, and any firearm that has been manufactured outside of legal channels is automatically prohibited, regardless of its type. Certain semi-automatic rifles with large-capacity magazines have also been added to the list of prohibited firearms.

Different Types of Firearms and Weapons Charges We Defend Against

Facing firearms or weapons charges can be overwhelming. At Wiebe Criminal Defence, we are well-versed in the complexities of firearms and weapons offences and have a proven track record of vigorously defending our clients. 

There are several types of firearm offences set out in sections 84 to 117 of the Criminal Code, which are mainly categorized as possession offences, use offences, and trafficking offences.  We explain these in more detail next starting with use offences. 

Using a Firearm in the Commission of an Offence

The use of a firearm in the commission of an offence is a particularly serious criminal act addressed under Section 85 of the Criminal Code. This section imposes additional penalties on individuals who use or attempt to use a firearm or an imitation firearm during the commission of an indictable offence, or while attempting to commit, or fleeing after committing such an offence. The legal provisions are designed to address and deter the heightened risk and potential harm associated with the use of firearms in criminal activities.

Using an Imitation Firearm in the Commission of an Offence

This offence occurs when you use anything that resembles a firearm to instill fear or gain compliance during the commission of an indictable offence, attempting to commit an indictable offence, or while fleeing after committing or trying to commit such an offence.   Even if the firearm is a replica or toy, the Criminal Code treats the situation as though a real firearm was used. For example, if an individual were to commit a robbery while brandishing a realistic-looking toy gun, they would face the same charges as someone who used a real firearm in the crime.

Careless Use of a Firearm

The Criminal Code in Section 86 mandates that firearms must be handled with utmost responsibility. Careless use of a firearm demonstrates a lack of concern for your own safety and the safety of those around you. This could include leaving a firearm loaded where it’s easily accessible or failing to take proper precautions while using a firearm at a shooting range. An example of careless use would be accidentally discharging a firearm during cleaning and causing an injury. This offence also applies to prohibited weapons or devices, restricted weapons, or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition.

Contravention of Storage Regulations

Canadian law outlines strict rules for the safe storage of firearms aimed at preventing them from falling into the wrong hands. Contravention of storage regulations means failing to adhere to these rules. This could include leaving a loaded rifle unlocked in a closet instead of storing it in a secure gun safe as mandated by law.

Pointing a Firearm

Intentionally pointing a firearm at another person without a legal reason is a criminal offence in itself, regardless of whether the firearm is loaded. This act is described in Section 87 of the Criminal Code and is considered a threat of violence.  For example, if an individual were to point a firearm at a neighbor during a heated argument, even with no intention of firing it, they would be committing a crime.

Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose

Section 88 of the Criminal Code addresses the possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. This law defines the offence as carrying or possessing a weapon, imitation weapon, prohibited device, or ammunition for a purpose dangerous to the public peace or for the purpose of committing an offence. The legal standard focuses on the intent behind carrying or possessing the item, which must be proven to be malevolent or harmful in nature.

Carrying a Weapon While Attending a Public Meeting

Carrying a weapon while attending a public meeting is a criminal offence under section 89 of the Code. This provision makes it an offence for any individual to carry a weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, or prohibited ammunition without a lawful excuse while attending or on the way to attend a public meeting.

The purpose of this section is to ensure public safety during public gatherings and meetings. It recognizes that there may be instances where carrying a weapon or ammunition is necessary, such as for law enforcement or security personnel, recreational activities like hunting, or transportation, storage, and shipment. However, it also aims to prevent violence in public events, rallies, and meetings by criminalizing the act of carrying weapons or dangerous devices without a lawful reason.

Carrying a Concealed Weapon

The offence of carrying a concealed weapon is outlined in Section 90 of the Criminal Code. It specifically addresses the illegal act of carrying a weapon, prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition concealed, unless one has been authorized under the Firearms Act to do so. This law aims to curb the hidden possession of dangerous items that may pose a threat to public safety. The legal elements of this offence require proving that the accused intentionally concealed the weapon without appropriate authorization.

Unauthorized Possession of a Firearm, Prohibited Weapon or Restricted Weapon

Section 91(1) of the Criminal Code governs the unauthorized possession of a firearm while Section 91(2) deals with the unauthorized possession of prohibited or restricted weapons. This section also includes prohibited devices (such as certain silencers or high-capacity magazines) and prohibited ammunition (like armor-piercing rounds). Possessing a prohibited device, other than a replica firearm, or any prohibited ammunition, without being the holder of a licence under which the person may possess it is a criminal offence.

There are situations where you might come into temporary possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon without facing charges. These include:


Under Supervision:

Being under the direct supervision of someone who can legally own the weapon, and using it in a way that person is allowed to.


Accidental Acquisition:

Coming into possession of a weapon unexpectedly (for instance, finding an old firearm while cleaning out a relative's home), and then either getting rid of it legally or obtaining the proper permits within a reasonable amount of time.

Possession of a Firearm, Prohibited Weapon, Device or Ammunition Knowing the Possession Is Unauthorized

The law states that it’s illegal to knowingly be in possession of any prohibited firearm, restricted firearm, non-restricted firearm, prohibited weapon, prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition if you don’t have the correct licenses and registration (where applicable). To own these items legally, you need the appropriate license that specifically covers the type of firearm, weapon, device, or ammunition you have. Additionally, you’ll need a registration certificate for prohibited and restricted firearms.

Possession at an Unauthorized Place

Section 93(2) criminalizes the possession of a firearm, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition in an unauthorized place. This could include public places, schools, or other locations where possession is not permitted.

Unauthorized Possession in a Motor Vehicle

Section 94 of the Code deals with the possession of a firearm, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition in a motor vehicle unless the possession is authorized. This section is intended to prevent the unlawful transportation of weapons in vehicles.

Weapons Trafficking

Weapons trafficking is a serious criminal offence outlined in Section 99(1) of the Criminal Code. It encompasses the manufacturing, transferring, or offering to transfer the ownership of prohibited firearms, restricted firearms, non-restricted firearms, prohibited weapons, restricted weapons, prohibited devices, ammunition, or prohibited ammunition without authorization. This section specifically targets activities that facilitate the illegal distribution and accessibility of dangerous weapons and devices.

When facing firearms and weapons charges, at Wiebe Criminal Defence we’ll fight tirelessly to protect your rights. Our goal is not just to defend you but to navigate the legal system for the best possible outcome.

Potential Defences for Weapons Offences Winnipeg

Weapons charges are serious and carry potentially severe consequences. It’s important to remember that you have legal rights, and several potential defences might apply to your specific case. We explain the possible defences below. 

Defence of Duress

The defence of duress can be pivotal in cases involving weapons offences, particularly if you acted under compulsion or threat of immediate harm. Under Canadian law, duress is recognized as a valid legal defence if you can demonstrate that your actions were the result of a serious and immediate threat to your life or safety and there was no reasonable opportunity to escape or avoid the situation.

However, to successfully claim duress, you must provide evidence that you genuinely believed there was an imminent risk of harm or death and that the threat was sufficiently real and immediate. This defence does not apply if the threat is of future harm or if the threat originates from circumstances that you willingly or recklessly got yourself into.

Legitimate Firearm Possession

Legitimate firearm possession is a strong defence against weapons charges. In Canada, individuals may legally possess firearms for reasons such as hunting, sport shooting, or personal protection (in limited circumstances).

To establish a defence based on legitimate possession, it must be demonstrated that the individual held a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) and that the firearm in question was registered accordingly if required (such as for restricted or prohibited firearms). Additionally, the individual must comply with all regulations concerning the safe storage, handling, and transportation of the firearm.

Mistake of Fact

The “mistake of fact” defence is applicable in weapons offence cases where an accused genuinely believed in a set of circumstances that, if true, would make their actions lawful. This defence is meant for situations where you honestly and reasonably believed something that would have made your actions legal.

For instance, you might purchase or possess a firearm under the belief that it is categorized as non-restricted, when in fact, it is a restricted or prohibited weapon. It is crucial for the mistake to be reasonable under the circumstances, meaning that an average person, equipped with the same knowledge and in the same situation, would likely have made the same error. The defence is not applicable if you were willfully or recklessly blind toward the legal obligations pertaining to weapon possession.

Charter Rights Violations

Charter rights violations can be used as a defence against weapons offences by arguing that the prosecution’s actions, such as searches, seizures, detentions, or trials, were unreasonable, arbitrary, or discriminatory. The specific Charter section invoked will depend on the circumstances of the case and the alleged violation. For example, if a weapon is found during a search conducted without a valid warrant or without the necessary exigent circumstances to justify a warrantless search, the evidence obtained could potentially be excluded under Section 24(2) of the Charter, which aims to prevent abuses of power and maintain the integrity of the legal system.

Additionally, if an accused was not provided an opportunity to speak to a lawyer immediately after arrest, or if they were interrogated without being informed of their right to remain silent, these could also be grounds for challenging the admissibility of any statements or evidence gathered as a result.

Penalties for a Weapons Offence Conviction

The consequences of a weapons offence conviction in Canada are severe and can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s freedom, reputation, and future. Understanding the penalties associated with various weapons offences is crucial for anyone facing charges. 

Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose:

Up to 10 years in prison if treated as an indictable offence, or a summary conviction with a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine

Carrying a Concealed Weapon:

If the Crown proceeds by indictment the maximum sentence is 5 years of incarceration, or up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine if charged summarily.

Possession of an Unauthorized Firearm:

The maximum sentence for this indictable offence is 10 years incarceration.

Possession of a Restricted or Prohibited Firearm:

Carries a penalty of 10 years incarceration if the Crown proceeds by indictment and up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine if charged summarily.

Possession at an Unauthorized Place:

If indicted, this offence can result in 5 years of incarceration, while a summary charge can lead to up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

Unauthorized Possession in a Motor Vehicle:

This offence carries a penalty of either 5 or 10 years incarceration if indicted, or up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine if charged summarily.

Unauthorized Possession of a Firearm:

An indictable charge can result in 5 years of incarceration, while a summary charge could lead to up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

Weapons Trafficking:

Can result in 5 or 10 years of incarceration if charged as an indictable offence or, if the Crown proceeds summarily, up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine if pursued summarily.

Use of Firearm in Commission of an Offence:

This serious offence can result in 14 years of incarceration if indicted, with no summary penalty applicable.

Seek Counsel from an Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer

Facing weapons charges is stressful and confusing. You don’t have to go through it alone.  An experienced criminal defence lawyer can make all the difference in understanding the law, protecting your rights, and building the strongest possible case. 

At Wiebe Criminal Defence, we offer comprehensive legal representation tailored to the specifics of your case. We are committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients. Our lawyers work closely with clients, offering transparent communication and thorough guidance at every step, ensuring you are well-informed and prepared for all aspects of the legal proceedings.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I get a firearms licence with a criminal record in Canada?

    Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from obtaining a firearms license. However, the existence of a criminal record is a factor that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) considers when processing an application for a Possession and Acquisition (PAL) licence. Therefore, if you have a criminal record, you’ll have to disclose the details on your application form’s addendum. The RCMP conducts a thorough background check, considering the nature of the criminal record, the time elapsed since the conviction, as well as your behaviour since the offence. Applicants with a criminal record can expect a more rigorous examination and may need to provide further documentation or testimony to support their application.

    Each application is assessed on a case-by-case basis, and the key to successfully obtaining a firearms licence with a criminal record is to be truthful and transparent about the record during the application process. 

  • Can I possess a weapon for self-defence?

    In Canada, the possession of a weapon solely for self-defence is subject to stringent regulations and is tightly controlled. While self-defence is recognized under the Criminal Code, the use of firearms in such scenarios is heavily regulated and must be justified by the circumstances. 

    Canadian law does not endorse a “stand your ground” principle that permits the use of lethal force in all situations of perceived threat. Instead, Section 34 of the Criminal Code permits acts committed in self-defence or the defence of another person under conditions where the actions are deemed reasonable in the circumstances. This typically requires that the use of force be proportional to the threat and necessary to prevent harm or death, emphasizing the need for a reasonable belief in the immediacy and severity of the threat faced.