Reply To: Ticketing – Laying of Charges in relation to Structure Fires

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Michael BurnsMichael Burns

Not sure if this has been resolved, but thought I would chime in.

This topic was covered in the fire investigation program offered at Laurentian University, (the program was cancelled this past year).
I would review this with the OFMEM and your legal counsel, as there may be differing opinions. Specifically, I would ask about “predominant purpose” and regulatory inspections. Why did you originally enter the structure? If the initial entry into the structure was for an investigation. Then under the FPPA, Section 14(2) allows the investigator to take photographs for the purposes of cause. This means you cannot take photographs of code deficiencies, or no-working smoke alarms, unless these pertain specifically to the cause of the fire. (Note that I haven’t reviewed if there have been any revisions to the FPPA since I took the course last year. So my reference may be off and the section may have been revised, but I doubt it. The instructor was Chris Williams formerly with OFMEM.) The way we discussed it was that, in the ideal world, the investigator conducts an investigation into the origin, cause and circumstances of the fire. A second, and separate inspector can enter, under whatever authority they may need to, ie. entry warrant, consent, whatever. If you, as the investigator notice a violation and subsequently charge the offender, the evidence may be thrown out as you didn’t have legal authority to enter the premises for inspection: you entered to investigate the cause of the fire. In addition, you may be violating their charter rights.

If it was me, I would approach OFMEM and legal counsel to obtain their opinions on the current state of affairs.

If you decide to research predominant purpose, add in regulatory inspections as well. This should bring up relevant topics and issues as predominant purpose also other legal meaning.

Let me know if you need anything and I can try dig up any other information I may have. But your legal counsel and OFMEM would be better. As an FYI. I’m in Saskatchewan. Not to muddy the waters, but I asked our legal counsel and they said, no. Predominant purpose does not apply. But it’s a different province.