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Rules and regulations for private investigators

Region: Ontario Answer # 1001

To legally work in Ontario, a private investigator must follow both industry regulations as well as municipal, provincial and federal laws. It is very important to get the right training to become a licensed private investigator .

To get legal advice with regards to setting up a private investigation business, call a lawyer now.

Private Security and Investigative Services Act (PSISA)

The private investigation industry is regulated by the Private Security & Investigative Services Act (PSISA). This law provides rules and regulations, as well as a Code of Conduct that governs the way licensed private investigators must operate in Ontario. The PSISA was created to:

  • make private investigation a professional industry,
  • increase public safety, and
  • ensure private investigators receive proper training and are qualified to provide private investigation services.

Standards of Practice and General Rules

Under the PSISA, private investigators must meet the following licensing requirements in order to legally operate as a private investigator:

  • have a valid licence,
  • carry the licence with him or herself at all times while on duty, and
  • identify themselves and show their licence to anyone who asks to see it.

In addition, the PSISA includes rules about what private investigators are not allowed to do, such as:

  • carry a badge or any other symbol of authority
  • pretend to be a police officer or complete any task that is related to police work, such as make an arrest
  • refer to him or herself as an officer, detective or private detective
  • use the words police or law enforcement when talking about their work

Code of Conduct

The PSISA also includes a Code of Conduct that defines what behaviour is considered appropriate and inappropriate while investigators are working, such as:

  • treating everyone with respect and in a professional manner
  • treating everyone equally, without discrimination
  • acting with integrity and honestly
  • not using profanity or abusive language
  • not using excessive force
  • not being under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Penalties for committing an offence under the PSISA

An investigator who is found guilty of committing an offence under the PSISA could lose their licence, receive a fine of up-to $25,000, and face up-to one year imprisonment, or both.

Municipal, provincial and federal privacy laws

During investigations private investigators must also ensure that they follow all municipal, provincial and federal privacy laws in order to protect the rights and privacy of individuals who may be part of an investigation.

For example, under the following Acts, consent is generally required for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information:

  • Federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
  • Provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)
  • Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA)

PIPEDA applies to personal information collected by federal private organizations conducting commercial activities.

FIPPA is the provincial legislation and governs records held by the government, designated agencies, colleges, and universities.

MFIPPA governs records held by municipalities.

These laws are particularly important for an investigator conducting any investigation that may require filing access requests for government held records that are not publicly available, such as background checks or locating property or assets.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

An individual’s right to privacy is also protected under Canada’s Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under the Charter, “everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure”, on the basis that it violates an individual’s expectation of privacy. This would apply particularly in investigations where surveillance is used, or personal information is collected.

For example, it is reasonable to expect that an individual’s privacy be protected while inside their own home, but not necessarily if they are out in a public place. In regards to document collection and searches, garbage placed at the curb for pickup is considered in law to be abandoned, and therefore would not be subject to an expectation of privacy.

Other laws

There are many other provincial and federal laws that private investigators must be familiar with when conducting an investigation.

For example:

  • under the Ontario Trespass to Property Act, private investigators cannot enter onto someone’s property if it is not authorized, or remain on someone’s private property after permission has been withdrawn.
  • under the Canadian Criminal Code, wiretapping without the individual’s consent or first obtaining a warrant is illegal. Therefore, private investigators cannot legally tap a phone unless one of those conditions is first met.

If an investigator must present evidence in a court case, they should be familiar with both the Ontario Evidence Act, and the federal Canada Evidence Act. Both Acts regulate how evidence can be collected and then used in court.

Other legislation includes:

  • Employment Standards Act, 2000
  • Labour Relations Act, 1995
  • Provincial Offences Act
  • Residential Tenancies Act, 2006

Get help

To get legal advice with regards to setting up a private investigation business, call a lawyer now.

To have someone conduct a background check or other investigation, contact our preferred Investigators:


Smith Investigation Agency

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