While generally referred to as B&Ethe offence is properly known as break and enter with the intention of committing an indictable offence. In order to prove the offence, the Crown has to show that the accused person broke and entered into a place either with the intention of committing an indictable offence or having committed an indictable offence. For the purposes of the offence, any offence which the Crown could proceed by way of indictment would be sufficient, although the most common indictable offences that are attached to a break and enter are theft, assault and mischief (damage to property).
It is not necessary for the Crown to prove that there was an actual "breaking" during the course of entry into the place. Under the Criminal Code, break is defined as the actual breaking or the opening of something that is designed to close or cover an internal or external opening. In other words, even if a door or window is unlocked, the simple act of opening it and entering into the premises when you are not permitted to be there would be sufficient for the break and enter aspect of the charge.
Once the Crown has proven the break and enter, it is presumed that the accused did so for the purpose of committing an indictable offence. It would therefore be the burden of the accused person to show that the purpose for the break and enter was for some reason other than the commission of an offence. For example, a homeless person who breaks and enters into a building in order to stay warm would not be guilty of this offence.
The penalty for break and enter depends on which property was broken into. Where the property in question is a dwelling house, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. In all other cases, the maximum penalty is 10 years in custody if the Crown proceeds by way of indictment or 6 months custody if the Crown proceeds by way of summary conviction.