A private investigator in a black suit shakes hand with a new client to conclude the signing of a new contract.

Hiring a private investigator (PI) can be a crucial step in gathering information for personal or legal reasons. In Ontario, the legality of hiring a private investigator is governed by specific regulations to ensure that the privacy of individuals is protected while allowing access to investigative services. Here, we will explore the legal framework, requirements for PIs, the permissible scope of their activities, and ethical considerations in Ontario.

Legal Framework in Ontario

In Ontario, the activities of private investigators are regulated under the Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005 (PSISA). This legislation is designed to oversee the conduct of private investigators and security guards within the province. It ensures that all investigative activities are conducted within the bounds of the law, emphasizing respect for privacy and the legal rights of individuals.

Licensing Requirements

Under the PSISA, all private investigators in Ontario must hold a valid license to operate legally. To obtain a license, an individual must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • Be legally entitled to work in Canada.
  • Complete a mandatory basic training course and pass a corresponding examination.
  • Undergo a criminal background check to ensure the absence of prohibitive criminal records.

Furthermore, these requirements ensure that PIs have a foundational understanding of their legal boundaries and are fit to conduct investigations without infringing on the rights of others.

Scope of Work of a Private Investigator

Private investigators in Ontario are hired for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Gathering evidence for legal cases.
  • Locating missing persons.
  • Investigating potential fraud or theft.
  • Conducting surveillance on individuals.
  • Performing background checks on potential employees or tenants.

However, while carrying out these activities, PIs must operate within the legal constraints set by both provincial and federal laws. For example, while surveillance is a common task, PIs are prohibited from trespassing on private property, using deception to gain access to private buildings, or recording private conversations without consent from at least one involved party as per Canadian privacy laws and eavesdropping statutes.

Ethical Considerations and Privacy Laws

Privacy is a significant concern in private investigations. Ontario’s privacy laws are primarily dictated by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which applies to the private sector. According to PIPEDA, private investigators must not collect, use, or disclose personal information about individuals without their consent unless it’s deemed necessary for lawful purposes.

In addition, private investigators must be transparent about their intentions when collecting information directly from individuals unless exempted by law. That said, the information gathered during investigations must be handled sensitively and securely to avoid any unauthorized access or breaches.

What Private Investigators Cannot Do

While private investigators provide valuable services, there are clear restrictions on what they can legally do. For instance, they cannot:

  • Impersonate law enforcement officers.
  • Make arrests.
  • Engage in any form of harassment.
  • Break into homes or install tracking devices without consent from the owner.

Violations of these rules can lead to severe penalties, including fines and revocation of the PI’s license.

Hiring a Private Investigator

When hiring a private investigator in Ontario, it is crucial to:

  1. Verify that the investigator is licensed. This can be checked through the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services website.
  2. Discuss and understand the scope of the investigation, ensuring it aligns with legal standards.
  3. Consider the ethical implications, especially concerning privacy and the methods used to gather information.


In Ontario, hiring a private investigator is legal provided the investigator holds a valid license and adheres to the strict guidelines and ethical standards set by the PSISA and relevant privacy laws. Individuals and businesses must ensure that they hire reputable professionals who commit to operating within the legal boundaries to avoid any potential legal issues. While PIs can provide crucial insights and evidence, their actions are bound by laws designed to protect the privacy and rights of individuals, ensuring that investigations are conducted responsibly and ethically.

If you’re interested in hiring a private investigator or want to learn more, give us a call or drop us a message.