In popular culture, private detectives are often portrayed as rogue individuals, going where the police and law enforcement will not. They tend to operate within a grey area of the law, but few ever seem to mind as long as they complete the mission and find the evidence. While this is acceptable for television and movies, the real world, of course, doesn’t actually work like this. When it comes to investigating crimes, missing persons cases, or even cheating spouses, the law requires that proper measures are taken to ensure there is no cause for dismissal.

This, therefore, might cause one to wonder whether the work of private detectives is even legal. After all, if they’re following the law, why can’t traditional law enforcement tackle the job? However, private detectives are able to offer more focused assistance that police cannot. So let’s explore the work of private detectives and determine whether the role is legal in Canada.

Are private detectives legal?

Yes, private detectives are legal to work in Canada. There are a number of reputable investigative agencies, that successfully operate within the country, offering their services to a range of different clients and cases. But of course, as with any other industry, there are rules and regulations that they are required to follow. Let’s take a look at them.

General Legislation

In Canada, private detectives are expected to adhere to their industry’s standards, as well as follow municipal, provincial, and federal laws. Each province and the territory of Yukon ensures private detectives are regulated by provincial security services and private investigation legislation.


Private detectives are also required to be properly licensed and carry that license with them at all times while on the job. It’s crucial to note that private detectives are in no way allowed to impersonate a police officer, nor imply that they are one. This includes carrying a police badge or making an arrest.

There is also a Code of Conduct that dictates what is appropriate behaviour for private detectives to exhibit. This includes treating everyone professionally, respectfully, honestly, and equally, while ensuring that they are not using excessive force or profanity.

Private Detectives
Private Detectives

Obtaining Records

There are several types of records that private detectives are prohibited from acquiring; doing so would be considered illegal, and the evidence would not be used in court. Medical records and phone records are almost always off-limits, however private detectives are allowed to ask friends and family about medical histories and develop an oral medical record. Credit information is generally a no-go as well, unless you can prove a legal cause to run a credit check. When it comes to bank records, independent private detectives are typically unable to acquire them, but those working on behalf of an attorney or law firm may be given access.

GPS Tracking

In Canada, GPS tracking is legal, provided you have the permission of the owner of the car. Private detectives find this particularly useful in infidelity cases, as the client will offer their consent, thus allowing the private investigator to track their vehicle and their spouse.


In Canada, you are required to have permission from at least one party involved in the recorded call in order for your wiretap to be considered legal. This, therefore, is typically a viable option for private detectives, as their clients will generally act as the consenting party. It is important to get that verbal consent, however, as the private detective could otherwise be charged with a crime.

Trespassing on Private Property

This is a rather grey area; while some instances are acceptable, many are not. In general, permission is needed from the property owner prior to entering the premises legally.

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