This paper discusses the adoption of the Stephen Code as Canada’s criminal law and its implications for subsequent criminal law reform initiatives in Canada. It argues that systematic law reform has been unsuccessful because of certain features of the Stephen Code, despite theoretical assumptions that codification should facilitate law reform. This suggests that codification must meet certain additional criteria in order to fulfil the promise of enabling future change. At the same time, it becomes apparent that the Stephen Code was well positioned to be acceptable to political and judicial constituencies who had an on-going commitment to the common law. Thus, it is appropriate to characterize the Stephen Code as a politically successful codification attempt, but an attempt which ultimately fails to deliver on some of the theoretical promises of codification.