The Law in Canada

By: Lisa Thomson

                Radiocommunication jamming devices, more commonly referred to as “jammers,” have been a topic in recent news. Numerous cases have been reported of frustrated citizens purchasing jammers in an attempt to minimize the disruptive cell phone chatter that has become the norm in places such as movie theatres, classrooms and public transit. While some may praise these people for the ingenious solution to a seemingly never ending issue, the reality is that jammers are prohibited in Canada. Cell phone jammers carry the potential to significantly impede the public’s rights to communicate, as well as the potential for great harm should they ever interfere with emergency responders’ communication devices. In the case of an emergency, the use of a cell phone jammer can cause a delay in emergency care being provided.  Many might argue that they should have the right to do as they please on their own property. Others may also feel that the use of a cell phone jammer in public places such as a movie theatre or classroom should be permitted as a means to regulate the overuse of cell phones and the disruptions they may cause. Regardless of any opposing opinion, the fact remains that it is illegal not only to use a jammer in any manner, it is also illegal to simply possess it. This issue is relatively unrepresented in Canadian court cases and this can mean that the courts can create new means of dealing with this issue should it become a more common occurrence.

According to the Radiocommunication Act, it is prohibited to import, manufacture, distribute, offer for sale, sell, possess or use a jamming device. This offence carries with it a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding one year for an individual and corporations could face a fine of up to $25,000.

The Criminal Code of Canada also prohibits the use of jammers, as set out in s. 430 and

  1. 430(1.1). Someone found to be using a jammer can be charged with Mischief or Mischief to Data. This charge carries a potential penalty that ranges from 2 years to life if it can be proven that actual danger to life occurred.

There are several other potential sections of the Criminal Code that this offence may be interpreted to fall within if the circumstances of the case were appropriate. Therefore, until any legislation to the contrary is enacted, jammers are prohibited in Canada.