In Canada during the 17th and 18th centuries, as in France, people accused of crimes were presumed guilty, and judges used interrogation and, in the case of serious crimes, torture to obtain confessions. The situation was different in England and its North American colonies, where the accused was considered innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, Canadians accused of crimes did not have access to lawyers to defend them, because the King prohibited lawyers from practising in order to avoid "squabbles." About half of the criminals in Canada were accused of crimes against persons: verbal violence, such as abuse or slander; or physical violence, including assault and battery, infanticide, duelling and murder. The justice meted out was harsh, but the number of criminal trials was relatively low, possibly because there was less social tension than in France and society was more tolerant, or because living conditions were somewhat easier.

Crimes and Criminals
Case of Marie-Anne Gendron, sentenced to be hanged and strangled for having "destroyed and murdered her child," April 19, 1732
CA ANC MG8-A5