Section 266 of the Criminal Code of Canada reads as follows:
Every one who commits an assault is guilty of (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.The section sets out that the Crown may proceed by indictment or summary conviction process on a charge of assault simpliciter. The more general concept of assault is defined earlier in the Criminal Code, at section 265 as follows:
A person commits an assault when (a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly; (b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or (c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.
Defences to a charge of assault simpliciter are broad and cover the gamut of typically invoked defences. Many cases are defended on the basis of self defence, in which case reference must be had to sections 34 and 35 of the Criminal Code. Alternatively, an accused may challenge whether the action happened (i.e. "I never assaulted him") or whether the action was voluntary (i.e. "I accidentally hit him while on the dance floor. I didn't realize he was so close behind me." The section contains very broad sentencing provisions and can net anything from a penitentiary sentence to an absolute discharge, depending on a person's record and the specific facts at play. More substantial forms of assault can be found at sections 267 (assault causing bodily harm), 268 (aggravated assault) and 271 (sexual assault).