Distinction Between Assault Causing Bodily Harm and Aggravated Assault

Assault Causing Bodily Harm:

Bodily harm is defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code of Canada as follows: any hurt or injury to a person that interfere with the health or comfort of the person and that is more than merely transient or trifling in nature.

Reasonable foreseeability that harm will occur as a result of the assault is not a necessary element of this offence.

Bodily harm need not meet a standard of interfering in a grave or substantial way with physical integrity or well-being of the complainant.,  A functional impairment is not necessary.  Interference with comfort is sufficient to constituted bodily harm if it is more than trifling and transient.

Included Offence:

The offence of assault causing bodily harm is an included offence in a charge of aggravated assault by wounding:  see Criminal Code s. 662(1)R. v. R. (G.) (2005), 2005 SCC 45 (CanLII)198 C.C.C. (3d) 161 at paras. 25-34 (S.C.C.).

Aggravated Assault:

Endangerment of life does not require proof of bodily harm, the conduct must endanger the complainant’s life and not merely have potential to endanger life.

Consent is no defence to aggravated assault where the injuries were caused by a weapon such as a knife

The mental element (mens rea) is objective foresight of bodily harm and does not require proof of intent to maim, wound or disfigure.

The actus reus is the endangerment of the victim’s life.

Both elements must coincide.

The Crown need not show that an accused alleged to be party to the offence had any greater mens rea than the actual perpetrator.

This offence is made out where the Crown shows that the accused endangered the life of the complainant and intentionally applied force without consent.


Depending on the elections, maximum jail sentences for both charges 10 to 14 years.

Assault Causing Bodily Harm:

Assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm

 Every person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who, in committing an assault,

  • (a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation thereof,

  • (b) causes bodily harm to the complainant, or

  • (c) chokes, suffocates or strangles the complainant.

Aggravated Assault:

Aggravated assault

  •  (1) Every one commits an aggravated assault who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.

  • Punishment

    (2) Every one who commits an aggravated assault is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

  • Excision

    (3) For greater certainty, in this section, “wounds” or “maims” includes to excise, infibulate or mutilate, in whole or in part, the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris of a person, except where

    • (a) a surgical procedure is performed, by a person duly qualified by provincial law to practise medicine, for the benefit of the physical health of the person or for the purpose of that person having normal reproductive functions or normal sexual appearance or function; or

    • (b) the person is at least eighteen years of age and there is no resulting bodily harm.

  • Consent

    (4) For the purposes of this section and section 265, no consent to the excision, infibulation or mutilation, in whole or in part, of the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris of a person is valid, except in the cases described in paragraphs (3)(a) and (b).

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