Expedited extreme intoxication law needs improvement, Senate committee says in new report

Press Release

Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

April 27, 2023

Ottawa – The federal government’s haste to enact legislation to address violence arising from self-induced extreme intoxication is resulting in legal uncertainty, while advocates for women say it will not help bring justice to female victims, a Senate committee said in a report released Thursday, April 27, 2023.

The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs was directed by the Senate to study self-induced extreme intoxication after the passing of Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (self-induced extreme intoxication) on June 23, 2022.

The bill allows for an individual to be held criminally responsible for actions taken while in a state of self-induced extreme intoxication if, before they reached that state, they “departed markedly” from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person in the circumstances. To determine whether such a marked departure occurred, the court must consider the objective foreseeability of the risk that consuming the intoxicating substances could cause extreme intoxication and lead the person to harm another.

A number of legal experts told the committee that foreseeability could be very difficult to prove, while others expressed the concern that the changes could result in lengthened legal processes or reluctance by police or Crown prosecutors to lay charges. The concern is that women — particularly racialized, Indigenous and marginalized women, who already bear the brunt of intoxication-related violence — will be disproportionately affected.

The committee also noted the risk that people — particularly young people — could misunderstand the law related to the defence of extreme intoxication. The committee urges the federal government to develop and implement a public education initiative to clarify that intoxication itself — including extreme intoxication — is not a defence to criminal acts and will rarely be available to exonerate an accused person.

Other recommendations include a new and thorough public consultation process and a parliamentary review.

Quick Facts
– The bill was intended to allow the courts to hold a person responsible for acts of violence committed while in a state of extreme intoxication. It was prompted by the Supreme Court of Canada’s May 2022 decision in v. Brown, which held that it is unconstitutional to hold a person criminally responsible for actions undertaken while intoxicated to the point of having no voluntary control of their actions.
– The bill was introduced only a month after the Brown decision and was passed by Parliament in less than a week. Consequently, it was not the subject of detailed study.


“While we applaud the sentiment behind Bill C-28, the serious issues raised by witnesses during our committee hearings deserve immediate consideration. A new — and thorough — consultation process is needed to address them.”
– Senator Brent Cotter, Chair of the committee

“We have heard that the rush to legislate has come at a cost to victims of violent crime. It is regrettable that the government chose to proceed with this bill without fully considering the consequences.”
– Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, Deputy Chair of the committee

“Bill C-28 was an attempt to balance the rights of victims with the rights of accused people. It is a balance that is difficult to achieve; the evidence we have heard suggests more work remains to be done.”
– Senator Pierre J. Dalphond, member of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure

“The Supreme Court’s decision required urgent action from Parliament. However, the rush to pass this bill came at the expense of proper consultation and legislative review. In my view, this was a costly mistake.”
– Senator Dennis Patterson, member of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure

Associated Links

– Read the report: Self-induced Extreme Intoxication and Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code.
– Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #LCJC.
– Subscribe to email alerts for Senate committees.
– Sign up for the Senate eNewsletter.

For more information:

Amely Coulombe
Communications Officer | Senate of Canada
343-575-7553 | amely.coulombe@sen.parl.gc.ca


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