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Theft and shoplifting

Man shoplifting a camera.
Photo: iStock

Shoplifting and theft are the same thing. Theft is the legal term for shoplifting and is listed as a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada in section 322.

Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent:

  • (a) to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it;
  • (b) to pledge it or deposit it as security;
  • (c) to part with it under a condition with respect to its return that the person who parts with it may be unable to perform; or
  • (d) to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored in the condition in which it was at the time it was taken or converted.

The 1911 case of R. v. Thompson looked at theft provisions as emphasizing the impression that the person accused of theft had the requisite intention to fraudulently convert to their use that which rightfully belonged to another person.

The offence is committed in one of two ways, either:

  1. The person must take something, or convert it, to their use or for someone else’s use regardless of whether it’s a living thing or lifeless; or
  2. The person must move something, anything, or cause it to be moved or allow it to become moveable.

The first way the offence is committed is explained in the case R. v. Crowe. A man was accused of having stolen a lot of items from a relative. The court in this case said that if you take something without permission (even from a relative) and convert it to your own use or the use of someone else, then this is proof of the physical element of the offence, also called “actus reus.”

Types of theft

Besides theft being classified as being either under or over $5000, there are also different kinds of theft (or crimes related to theft), that are usually considered more serious that simple theft, including:

  • Identity theft;
  • Criminal Breach of Trust;
  • Taking Vehicle Without Consent;
  • Robbery.


There are two categories of theft:

  • Theft under $5000 – this is a summary offence but usually treated as a hybrid offence. This means the Crown can choose to either treat it as the less serious offence or it can upgrade it to indictable. Likely the latter will occur where the accused has prior convictions.
    • The penalty is either up to $5000 in fine and/or six months in prison.
  • Theft over $5000 – this is treated as an indictable offence and as this is treated as a serious crime the accused can face up to ten years in prison.

Read More:

Criminal Code of Canada - Theft

R v. Crowe