The Queen is Here – but don’t alarm her

When I was in grade 10, I got myself involved with the Ontario Young Liberals following working on the 1997 federal election (where Jean Chretien won his second majority government). That summer, Her Majesty Elizabeth II came to visit Canada. Through my OYL involvement, I was invited to volunteer at a dinner for Her Majesty at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. In addition to being able to greet cabinet Ministers and other dignitaries, I stood only feet away from Her Majesty as she entered the banquet hall. The lack of foresight of youth, however, caused me to not even think to bring a camera with to document this event (it would be 11 years until I acquired my Blackberry Bold, so a smartphone picture was out of the question).

Defence lawyers often like to joke and talk academically about the offence of “Alarming Her Majesty”. This offence, which carries a maximum penitentiary term of 14 years, can be found in s. 49(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada:

Acts intended to alarm Her Majesty or break public peace

49. Every one who wilfully, in the presence of Her Majesty,
(a) does an act with intent to alarm Her Majesty or to break the public peace, or
(b) does an act that is intended or is likely to cause bodily harm to Her Majesty,
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 49.

The offence is a straight indictable offence and one of the few offences where superior courts have exclusive jurisdiction over trials (as per s. 469 of the Criminal Code), the others being:

469. Every court of criminal jurisdiction has jurisdiction to try an indictable offence other than
(a) an offence under any of the following sections:
(i) section 47 (treason),

(ii) section 49 (alarming Her Majesty),

(iii) section 51 (intimidating Parliament or a legislature),

(iv) section 53 (inciting to mutiny),

(v) section 61 (seditious offences),

(vi) section 74 (piracy),

(vii) section 75 (piratical acts), or

(viii) section 235 (murder);

Accessories

(b) the offence of being an accessory after the fact to high treason or treason or murder;
(c) an offence under section 119 (bribery) by the holder of a judicial office;
Crimes against humanity

(c.1) an offence under any of sections 4 to 7 of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act;
Attempts

(d) the offence of attempting to commit any offence mentioned in subparagraphs (a)(i) to (vii); or
Conspiracy

(e) the offence of conspiring to commit any offence mentioned in paragraph (a).
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 469; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 62; 2000, c. 24, s. 44.

The effect of this is that the offence must be tried in a superior court; an Accused cannot elect to be tried before a provincial court Judge (in Ontario, the provincial court is the Ontario Court of Justice). By virtue of s. 522, a bail hearing must be before a superior court Judge.

In creating this offence, it would appear that Parliament wanted to make it clear that Her Majesty, as the Canadian sovereign, is in need of special protection. My less than scientific research failed to find any case of this offence being prosecuted:

  1. There is no reported caselaw in Martin’s Criminal Code, only a very brief synopsis of the offence and the sole jurisdiction of the superior court.
  2. A Quicklaw search for “Alarming Her Majesty” returns seven case results, ranging in dates from 1981-2004. Six of the seven results involve Judges explaining exclusive superior court jurisdiction and listing this offence as one such offence. The other result involves a man with a long criminal record being sentenced for a theft under and the Judge referring to “Alarming Her Majesty” as a means of commenting on the long record:

    THE COURT: “Alarming” Her Majesty is about the only one he has missed you know. Well that is the thing you know, it, you can pick any figure you like based on that record and I understand the rush to judgment on this one was really too fast, but at the same time, we should not miss an opportunity to do something worthwhile for him. It is not a question of long punishment. I think he should be somewhere where they can get a handle on his drinking problem and try to get it under control if possible.

    I don’t expect to have a similar opportunity to greet Her Majesty during this visit. If I do, however, I’ll be sure to post pictures.

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One Response to “The Queen is Here – but don’t alarm her”

  1. Pulat Yunusov July 5, 2010 5:31 pm #

    Nice post. Always wondered about this offence.

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