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Can You Use Bear Spray For Self-Defense In Canada?

Updated: Feb 7

a woman using bear Spray For Self-Defense In Canada

You want to carry bear spray for self-defense in Canada? If a cop asks you why you’re carrying it, you better be able to prove that you're headed to a camping trip. The reason for carrying cannot be for self-defense.

We've all seen those little compact sprays online, but before you pack your pockets, you need to understand that intent matters.

I'm going to explain the best response so that you don't risk getting in trouble with the law.

Plus, learn about alternative self defense tools you can use instead.


sabre self defense spray

Can You Use Bear Spray For Self Defense In Canada?

So, what self defense weapons are legal in Canada? No weapons at all - you cannot carry anything for the purpose of self defense. Bear spray is not technically illegal in Canada, however, you cannot ever carry it around for the purposes of defending yourself against another person.

If you happen to have dog spray/bear spray for camping, or because you're worried about bears in your area, and you just happen to use it in a dangerous scenario where a human attacked you - you may have a leg to stand on in court.

It all depends on your specific circumstances, the size of the attacker, the harm they caused, and whether you used reasonable force. The question would be: Was the spray used in reasonable proportion to the harm they caused you.

I have a whole guide on reasonable force here with different scenarios played out.

Simply put - technically - Under the Criminal Code of Canada, bear spray and pepper sprays cannot be used against another person in self defense because they are labelled as prohibited weapons.

Pepper spray requires you to have a license to carry and use it - in fact, carrying pepper spray without a valid permit is a criminal offense that may land you in prison for up to 10 years. Keep in mind this is different to bear spray which can be used for wildlife.

To obtain a valid permit for pepper spray, you will need to apply to the Canadian Firearms Program for a Possession and Acquisition License. You also have to be over 18 years old, complete a firearms safety program and be cleared of a background check.

In contrast, bear spray does not require you to have a license and you can buy it from any local store so that you can carry and use it against bear and wildlife attacks - but you cannot use it against another human.

If you use either of these sprays in self-defense against another person, this action is considered an illegal use of a prohibited weapon. You may be handed criminal charges and then have to prove in court that you used the spray in “reasonable” proportion to your attacker.

Top Picks: Bear Sprays You Can Buy In Canada

Before I dive into my full list of self-defense tools you can carry below, here's a quick rundown of my bear spray top picks that you will be carrying for wildlife attacks.

sabre self defense spray

sabre self defense spray

Court Case And The Laws Explained

Using sprays against another human, even in self defense, may result in criminal charges. Let's look at the “Prohibited Weapons” section located on the Government of Canada Justice Laws website:

1. Any device designed to be used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person by the discharge there from of:

(a) tear gas, Mace or other gas, or,

(b) any liquid, spray, powder or other substance that is capable of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person.

To add to the murkiness of this issue, there have been instances when using bear spray in self defense was ruled as appropriate in the context of the crime.

Let’s look at the Canadian court case involving a Mr. Roberts and Mr. Eriksen and his wife Ms. Profeit. An altercation between Mr. Roberts vs Mr. Erikson escalated from “verbal taunts to Mr. Eriksen slamming Mr. Roberts’ car door while Mr. Roberts was getting into the vehicle, mutual shoving, and, ultimately, bear spraying.”

In this case, the Crown had to prove that Ms. Profeit and Mr. Eriksen possessed the bear spray with a “dangerous” intention in mind.

The judge found that:

  • Mr. Eriksen and Ms. Profeit were acting in self defense when they used bear spray against Mr. Roberts.

  • They did not have the bear spray in their possession for a dangerous purpose.

  • The judge found that bear spray does not meet the Criminal Code definition of a prohibited weapon.

  • Mr. Eriksen and Ms. Profeit were acquitted of all charges.

In the eyes of the law, this case doesn’t change the fact that using these sprays against a person is still an illegal use of a prohibited weapon. Each case would be treated individually, and the risk of being found guilty of assault with a weapon remains.

This information seems disappointingly difficult, right? Especially if you’re a 5ft 1 female hoping to feel safer at night.

This doesn’t sit well with me either, so I gathered some other self defense options for you.

7 Self Defense Tactics You CAN Use

The best self defense for an individual person is to be able to run fast, and notice dangerous situations before they arise. But if you do find yourself being attacked, we asked our readers for their most commonly used items that they have thought about using in dangerous situations.

1. Personal Alarms: Personal alarms can be attached to your keychain or car keys. They create an ear-piercing shrieking alarm sound when you pull the pin out, and usually let off a strobe light. It’s enough to scare any attacker away.

shes birdie keychain

2. A Small Manicure Scissors: “Oh, this little thing? It sits in my handbag as part of my manicure kit.”

3. Jiu Jitsu: Why don’t you just become the weapon instead? Jiu jitsu is the best martial arts for self defense as it teaches smaller individuals to take the combat to the ground where you’re on a more even playing field.

Women always have the physical disadvantage, but if you know jiu jitsu and your attacker doesn’t, you can learn to use your lower body weight (rather than your upper body which is weaker) in grappling situations to push your attacker off momentarily, which may give you a few seconds to escape their grip and run away.

It also exposes you to the feeling of being in a fight so that you're conditioned to control your fear and adrenaline so that you can think more clearly under duress.

4. Hockey Stick: If you’re walking home from hockey practice, you could justify defending yourself with a hockey stick.

5. Steel Water Bottle: A large steel water bottle full of water wouldn't be the first choice. But a whack to the head, when especially full of water, would be a lot more effective than using your fists.

6. Scalding Hot Coffee: A face of hot liquid in an attacker’s face may give you the 2 second head start that you need to run.

7. Self Defense Umbrella: It has a pointy metal end … and a handle. But there are some made specifically for self-defense.

self defense umbrella

The Difference Between Bear Spray Vs Pepper Spray?

What is the difference between bear spray vs pepper spray? Bear spray is a form of pepper spray formulated with capsaicin (found in chili peppers) and other capsaicinoids at a percentage of around 1-2%.

You can only carry bear spray if you want to use it against bears and other wildlife during your adventures outdoors (like hiking and camping).

Bear spray can be used at a great distance and spray up to 30 feet away. As mentioned, bear spray is legal to carry, but it is illegal to use on another person.

Pepper spray is another aerosol spray that also contains capsaicin. The catch is that you can only carry and use pepper spray if you have a specific license. If you do end up using pepper spray to defend your personal safety, legally, you can only use it in self defense in a “reasonable” manner in relation to the danger you’re facing.

Related articles:

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where self defense was required? Let us know in the comments below!

6 commentaires

06 avr.

What a dumb article!

Listen. You can quote this ridiculous Canadian law all you want but when it comes to defending myself you better believe I'm going to use bear spray or whatever else I need to.

Now Canada has all these criminal immigrants allowed in by the Liberals and it is no longer safe.

"Better to be judged by 12, then be carried by 6."


Ida Hull
Ida Hull
06 févr.

The thing is, when my husband's mobility scooter goes back outside for the summer, they will be back. His previous scooter got stolen the night before we were going to bring it inside for the winter. I paid three times more for the new one, than what I paid for the stolen one. This one has an alarm and GPS tracking. I also have a camera in the window. I don't plan on hurting the culprits, but I figure I could use a baton or Taser and break their windshield on their shiny new red truck. Yes they were back a few days later, at four am in the morning, after the new one arrived, . We had just brou…

06 avr.
En réponse à

Good for you.


Martyn Link
Martyn Link
31 déc. 2023

I've yet to know of an attacker to call the cops on someone defending themselves. If I put down an attacker, I won't be calling 911. Maybe women should conceal their weapon of defence in a dildo.


11 déc. 2023

Why don't they just bump all us seniors off and get it over with? How are we supposed to know what danger we are in to justify the use of all those illegal weapons. It's not like we can read their minds. All we can do is expect the worst and hope for the best. I don't want to be close enough to danger to use a flashlight to bop them on the head. What's the difference? I would feel safer with a baton than a flashlight.

12 déc. 2023
En réponse à

Oh, hull4577, you've got a point! Well - here's hoping you don't need a baton when you have the element of surprise with a water bottle or an umbrella. Stay safe.

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