Stuart Henry: What is a Crime?

Stuart Henry, Wayne State University

In March 2023, the Law Commission of Canada released What is a Crime? Challenges and Alternatives, a discussion paper that explores why certain behaviour is defined as "unwanted" or "criminal", as well as the implications of choosing one or more intervention strategeies to deal with various behaviour. In the document, the Commission recognizes that the ways in which behav8iours are understood and defined will affect whether or not they are deemed to be unwanted, and wehther one or more intervention strategies will be used to deal with them. Why is some behaviour considered unwanted or offensive? What agencies have influence over shaping the content of what is defined as crime (media, law, police, corporations, bureaurcracies, NGOs etc)? Why do we consider that some behaviour warrants the label of "crime"? What relation si there between behaviour defined as crime and the degree and extent of the harm it causes to others? Why do we use criminal law to respond to some types of behaviour and not others? This presentation will critically examine these and other questions that are raised in What is a Crime? Challenges and Alternatives, as well as more general issues relatint to the nature of crime and its control in contemporary society.

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Updated 05/20/2006