Area of Law: Private Investigation
Answer # 1003
Can private investigators carry a badge, gun or other weapon?Region: Ontario Answer # 1003
In Ontario, the private investigation industry is regulated by the Private Security and Investigative Services Act (PSISA). This law provides rules and regulations that govern the way licensed private investigators must operate in Ontario. It is very important to get the right training and qualifications to become a licensed private investigator .
The PSISA specifically includes regulations regarding whether private investigators can carry a badge, firearm, baton, or restraints (such as handcuffs).
Although under the PSISA, private investigators are prohibited from carrying any symbol of authority, such as a metal badge, they are required to carry their licence at all times while on duty. In addition, private investigators must identify themselves as such, and show their licence to anyone who asks to see it.
The issue of whether private investigators are legally allowed to carry handguns is covered under three Acts: the PSISA, the federal Firearms Act, and the Canadian Criminal Code. Generally, under these Acts, private investigators are prohibited from carrying handguns and other restricted weapons.
Under the PSISA, a private investigator may use a restricted or prohibited firearm while providing private investigation services only if he or she is authorized to carry the firearm under section 20 of the federal Firearms Act.
The Firearms Act specifically governs the possession of firearms. Under this Act, an Authorization to Carry (ATC) is required for a person to carry restricted handguns. Authorization is issued by the chief firearms officer for the province or territory. There are only two categories of individuals who can be issued an ATC:
1. People who require a firearm for the protection of life:
- where the life of the private investigator, or other individual, is in imminent danger from one or more other individuals,
- police protection is not sufficient in these circumstances, and
- the possession of the restricted or prohibited firearm will protect the individuals from death or grievous bodily harm.
2. Those who require a firearm in connection with their lawful profession or occupation, and includes:
- individuals (such as security guards) who handle, transport or protect cash or other items of substantial value; or
- individuals who work in the remote wilderness and require the firearm as protection from wild animals; or
- individuals who are licensed trappers.
The Criminal Code defines what weapons are considered restricted or prohibited and are illegal to own without an ATC. Depending on the type, handguns are classified as either a restricted or a prohibited firearm.
The Criminal Code regulations provide an extensive list of firearms and weapons that are illegal in Canada, including:
- automatic firearms
- sawed-off rifles and shotguns
- large capacity ammunition cartridges
- knives that open by spring action, gravity or centrifugal force
- any weapons declared by Order in Council to be a prohibited weapon
Other weapons prohibited under the Criminal Code
The Code also defines what is considered a prohibited weapon and therefore cannot be legally used by a private investigator. This includes:
- tear gas, mace or other gas, or
- any liquid, spray, powder or other substance that is capable of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person.
For more information regarding the Criminal Code and restricted and prohibited weapons, visit 996 Is it legal to carry a weapon, gun, mace or pepper spray?
Batons are not a prohibited weapon under the Criminal Code and therefore may be used by a licensed private investigator, but only under the following two conditions as set out in the PSISA:
- The baton is issued to the individual licensee by the licensed or registered business entity that employs the individual, and
- The individual licensee may use the baton for defensive purposes only.
Furthermore, under the Code, any licensed private investigation agency must carry insurance to cover the risks associated with its employees carrying batons.
Handcuffs and other restraints
Handcuffs and most other restraints are also not considered prohibited weapons under the Criminal Code and may be used by a licensed private investigator, but only if the handcuffs are issued to the private investigator by the licensed or registered business entity that employs them. Under the PSISA, handcuffs should be concealed from view when carried.
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