Health and safety and human resource consultants who conduct
investigations or retain outside experts to do so, should
pay attention to a court decision in which an Ontario man was
convicted of acting as a private investigator without a
That Act states that "no person shall act as a private
investigator or security guard or hold himself or herself out as
one unless the person holds an appropriate licence under this
The defendant had attended "tax sales" (forced sales
of homes in order to pay back-taxes owing to a municipality) in the
past and had purchased homes in this manner.
The defendant undertook several investigations, including
checking to determine whether a particular property had fallen into
tax arrears and was in jeopardy of being sold, and determining
if the property was free and clear of any liens. Having been
unsuccessful in his attempt to purchase the home, he realized that
there would be a "surplus" from the sale, so he located
and approached the owner of the home who was apparently unaware of
the surplus. The owner agreed to split any
"surplus" from the sale 50-50.
The court decided that the defendant was able through
investigative techniques to deduce where the property was located
and who owned it, and that he had profited from his
investigation. As such, he had acted as a private
investigator without a license. He was therefore guilty of an
The case indicates how broad the term "private
investigation" can be interpreted. Safety professionals
and human resources managers who hire private investigators for a
fee, should satisfy themselves that the private investigator is
Although the Act includes several exemptions, including
"persons who perform work, for remuneration, that consists
primarily of searching for and providing information on . . .
the qualifications and suitability of persons as employees or
prospective employees", there are many types of workplace
investigations that could fall outside of that exemption.
The bottom line is that safety professionals or human resources
managers who undertake "private investigations"
themselves for a fee, should check whether their activities require
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