Sexual assault is an offense of general intent rather than specific intent.

Sexual assault is an offense of general intent rather than specific intent. *
R. v. Chase, 1987

* Legal information provided by the Mothers’ Aid Society of Canada does not constitute professional legal advice.

Implicit in this view of sexual assault is the notion that the offence is one requiring a general intent only. This is consistent with the approach adopted by this Court in cases such as Leary v. The Queen, [1978] l S.C.R. 29, and Swietlinski v. The Queen, [1980] 2 S.C.R. 956, where it was held that rape and indecent assault were offences of general intent. I am unable to see any reason why the same approach should not be taken with respect to sexual assault. The factors which could motivate sexual assault are said to be many and varied (see C. Boyle, Sexual Assault (1984), at p. 74). To put upon the Crown the burden of proving a specific intent would go a long way toward defeating the obvious purpose of the enactment. Moreover, there are strong reasons in social policy which would support this view. To import an added element of specific intent in such offences, would be to hamper unreasonably the enforcement process. It would open the question of the defence of drunkenness, one which has always been related to the capacity to form a specific intent and which has generally been excluded by law and policy from offences requiring only the minimal intent to apply force (see R. v. Bernard (1985), 18 C.C.C. (3d) 574 (Ont. C.A., per Dubin J.A.)) For these reasons, I would say that the offence will be one of general rather than specific intent.

Source: R. v. Chase, 1987 

Future additions to this page to include clarifications of the difference between general and specific intent.
Page last updated April 19, 2020