For years Canada has been known as a Pirates safe haven, but copyright in Canada has been going under huge reform for the past few years, and it's been hard to keep up with all the changes. With the new updated copyright laws, is it legal to download movies from a site such as the Piratebay? What's the official policy?
Subject to a few exceptions, such as fair dealing, copyright holders have a right to dictate how their creations are performed, communicated to the public, and reproduced. It is technically an infringement, and illegal, to download without respecting the copyright owner's terms.
The Copyright Act sets a limit of $5000 for non-commercial infringement cases:
38.1 (1) (b) in a sum of not less than $100 and not more than $5,000 that the court considers just, with respect to all infringements involved in the proceedings for all works or other subject-matter, if the infringements are for non-commercial purposes.
Practically, due to the fairness and reasonableness of Canadian courts and legislation, few-to-no lawsuits are brought against personal, non-commercial infringers as they are not cost-effective for rights holders. A reasonable award of, say, $150 for downloading one movie, is hardly worth the time, expense or risk to prosecute, especially if the defendant has no obvious income or assets to cover an award of damages, legal costs, etc.
Even when your ISP forwards a notice from a rights holder alleging infringement, as they are required to by law, the chances of actually being sued are (currently) slim. Further, if you only download and don't upload or "make available" you may be less likely to receive such notices or threats from some rights holders, depending on how they choose to identify IP addresses of apparent infringers. For example, many rights holders, or the enforcement companies they employ, try to download infringing files through BitTorrent and accuse all peers of infringement. To catch people who only download, the rights holder would have to actually offer and distribute their own copyrighted works, and they seem more reluctant to use this approach.