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What Investigators Can and Cannot Do in Canada

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What Investigators Can and Cannot Do in Canada

As the owner of a private investigation agency, I often encounter many misconceptions about what private investigators (PIs) can and cannot do, especially in the context of Canadian law. This misunderstanding is not surprising, given the portrayal of PIs in popular media. Shows like “Criminal Minds” and movies often depict investigators with seemingly unlimited access to private information, but the reality is quite different. In this blog, I aim to clarify some of these misconceptions and provide a clear understanding of the legal boundaries within which private investigators operate in Canada.

Common Misconceptions About Private Investigators

One of the most frequent misconceptions we encounter is the belief that private investigators can access bank accounts, phone records, and other private information with ease. People often assume that PIs have some sort of master database at their disposal, similar to what is shown in TV dramas. This is far from the truth.

Another common question we receive is whether we can investigate serious criminal matters such as sexual assaults, human trafficking, or missing persons cases. While private investigators can play a role in these areas, our capabilities and authority are limited compared to those of the police.

What Private Investigators Can Do

  1. Surveillance and Observation: One of the primary roles of a private investigator is to conduct surveillance. This involves monitoring a person’s activities to gather information. Surveillance can be used in various cases, such as infidelity, insurance fraud, and worker’s compensation claims.
  2. Background Checks: PIs can conduct thorough background checks using publicly available information and specialized databases that comply with privacy laws. These checks are often used in pre-employment screening, tenant verification, and due diligence investigations.
  3. Skip Tracing: This involves locating individuals who have gone missing or are avoiding detection. Skip tracing is commonly used in cases of debt recovery, locating missing heirs, or finding individuals who need to be served legal documents.
  4. Asset Searches: Private investigators can conduct searches to uncover hidden assets. This is often useful in cases of divorce, business disputes, or fraud investigations.
  5. Legal Investigations: PIs can assist in gathering evidence for legal cases, including civil litigation and criminal defence. Thiscan involve interviewing witnesses, collecting documents, and providing detailed reports.

 What Private Investigators Cannot Do

  1. Hacking Bank Accounts: Private investigators do not have the authority or ability to hack into bank accounts. Accessing someone’sfinancial records without their consent is illegal and punishable under Canadian law.
  2. Accessing Phone Records: Similar to bank accounts, phone records are private and cannot be accessed without a court order. Investigators cannot obtain phone call logs, text messages, or other private communications without proper legal authorization.
  3. Using Master Databases: There is no such thing as amaster database” that PIs can access to get information about anyone at any time. Information must be obtained through legal and ethical means, respecting the privacy rights of individuals.
  4. Investigating Active Criminal Cases: While PIs can assist in criminal defence cases, they do not have the authority to investigate active criminal cases like the police. Serious matters such as sexual assault or human trafficking are best handled by law enforcement agencies that have the necessary resources and legal authority.

The Role of Private Investigators in Canada

Private investigators in Canada operate within a strict legal framework. We are licensed professionals who must adhere to the laws and regulations governing our industry. This includes respecting privacy laws, obtaining information through lawful means, and maintaining high ethical standards.

PIs can provide valuable assistance in many areas, but it’s important to understand our limitations. We can gather evidence, conduct surveillance, and perform background checks, but we cannot break the law to obtain information. Our work often complements that of law enforcement, lawyers, and businesses, providing them with the information they need to make informed decisions.

The world of private investigation is fascinating and often misunderstood. By clarifying what private investigators can and cannot do, we hope to dispel some of the myths and provide a clearer understanding of our role. If you have any questions or need the services of a professional private investigator, feel free to contact The Smith Investigation Agency Inc. We are here to help, within the boundaries of the law, to provide you with the information you need.

Understanding the limitations and capabilities of private investigators is crucial for anyone considering hiring one. It ensures realistic expectations and fosters a better working relationship between the client and the investigator. Let’s keep the dialogue open and clear about what private investigators can do, ensuring trust and transparency in all our dealings.

FAQ: Common Questions About Private Investigation in Canada

How long does a sexual assault investigation take in Canada?

The legal process for a sexual assault investigation can take up to two years.

How is sexual assault proven in Canada?

Evidence in sexual assault cases in Canada may include witness testimony, statements, forensic evidence, photographic evidence, and admissions against interest. The victim’s testimony is often the most crucial piece of evidence.

What are the steps in investigating sexual assault?
  1. Assess the initial information.
  2. Conduct thorough interviews.
  3. Locate and process relevant crime scenes and evidence.
  4. Obtain and process a sexual assault evidence kit.
  5. Connect the victim with an advocate.
  6. Reassess all gathered information.
Is human trafficking a problem in Canada?

Yes, Statistics Canada reported that between 2012 and 2022, there were 3,996 incidents of human trafficking. In 2022, 82% of these incidents were reported in metropolitan areas.

What is the most common form of human trafficking in Canada?

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most commonly detected and encountered form by law enforcement in Canada.

What is the average age of human trafficking victims in Canada?

The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is 13 years old. Over 70% of human trafficking victims identified by police are under the age of 25.

What is the penalty for trafficking in Canada?

The penalties for trafficking in Canada include:

  • Minimum five years incarceration (for victims under 18).
  • Minimum six years incarceration (for victims under 18 with harm).
  • Maximum sentences range from 5, 10, 14 years, or life imprisonment.
How to spot a human trafficker?

Indicators of human trafficking include:

  • Living with employer.
  • Poor living conditions.
  • Multiple people in cramped spaces.
  • Inability to speak alone.
  • Scripted and rehearsed answers.
  • Employer holding identity documents.
  • Signs of physical abuse.
  • Submissive or fearful behaviour.
Who is most at risk for human trafficking in Canada?

High-risk groups include:

  • Indigenous individuals.
  • Women and girls.
  • People who are living in poverty.
  • Individuals with substance use disorders.
  • Survivors of abuse and trauma.
  • Individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQI+.
  • People facing cultural or societal inequities.
How can I locate someone who is missing?

To find a missing person:

  1. Contact the police immediately.
  2. Reach out to the missing person’sfriends and acquaintances.
  3. Register them with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).
  4. Check local hospitals, churches, homeless shelters, and libraries.
  5. Post flyers.
  6. Hire a private investigator.
How to locate a missing person in Canada?

After contacting the police, you can hire a private investigator from The Smith Investigation Agency Inc. to assist in locating a missing person.

How to find a lost relative for free?

While hiring a private investigator is recommended for thorough searches, some resources and techniques, such as skip tracing, can be utilized to locate lost relatives.

What is the most famous missing person case?

One of the most heavily reported missing-person cases is that of Madeleine McCann, a 3-year-old English girl who disappeared from an apartment while on vacation with her family.

How many cold cases are there in Canada?

More than 2,500 adults and children are currently missing in Canada, according to the national RCMP database. This includes 378 unidentified individuals.

What do private investigators do to catch cheaters?

Private investigators often use physical surveillance to gather evidence of infidelity. This may include following the subject, taking photographs, and documenting their activities.

Can a private investigator track your phone?

No, private investigators in Canada cannot track your phone.

Can a private investigator take pictures of you in your home in Canada?

No, due to Canada’s strict privacy laws, private investigators cannot take videos or photographs inside your home.

Can a private investigator listen to your conversations?

Private investigators cannot record telephone conversations, but they are allowed to eavesdrop on and record conversations that occur in public places.

How to spot a cheater? A private investigator reveals warning signs.

Warning signs of cheating may include:

  1. Your partner never lets their phone out of sight.
  2. They share less about their day with you.
  3. Changes in bedroom behaviour.
  4. They pick fights or project negative traits onto you.
How to check a girlfriend’s call history?

You cannot check your significant other’s phone history unless you are the account holder. 

This FAQ aims to address some of the most common questions and misconceptions about private investigation in Canada. For more information or to hire a professional private investigator, contact The Smith Investigation Agency Inc. We are here to help you within the boundaries of the law.

About the Author

Whitney Joy Smith

Whitney Joy Smith is a prominent figure in the field of private investigation and security, serving as the founder and CEO of The Smith Investigation Agency Inc., Smith Security Inc., and Training Centre Canada, as well as a sitting politician.

With a remarkable journey that began in the early 2000s, Whitney's professional background as a private investigator is underscored by her unwavering dedication to the role. Born in Canada and having spent her early years between Canada and the United States, Whitney possesses a unique perspective shaped by her experiences in both countries. This background equips her with an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of private investigative laws, regulations, and operational standards in North America.

Throughout her career, Whitney has garnered numerous industry awards and accolades. She takes great pride in working closely with her continually expanding agency, striving to elevate industry standards, maintain compliance, and effectively meet the diverse investigative needs of clients.

Whitney actively engages in various membership, committee, board and support roles, demonstrating her commitment to the industry and professional community. She is affiliated with all local chambers, associations and more.

Whitney's wealth of experience is not limited to her professional achievements; her thought-provoking articles have been featured in publications ranging from Readers Digest, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, and Mens Health to Business News Daily. She constantly seeks to redefine standards and push the boundaries of excellence within the private investigative and security fields.

To discover more about Whitney Joy Smith and the dedicated team at The Smith Investigation Agency Inc., visit our website to learn more.

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