In April of 2012, Canada’s Supreme Court declared that police could no longer engage in wire tapping without a warrant – even in cases of an emergency. They’ve given Parliament 12 months to revise the law to prevent future cases from being thrown out of court because of inadmissible evidence. In short, they claim that landline and cell phone tapping (when done without notifying at least one of the parties involved) constituted an invasion of privacy.
This can potentially cause a change in the field of private investigations. Recording telephone conversations is standard protocol for most PIs, and a change in the law will require that investigators take some additional steps in order to ensure that we stay within the legal boundaries. Wire tapping without notification may become illegal – but that notification clause is key.
Cell Phone Tapping is Still Legal in Canada – So Far
In 1973, The Montreal Gazette reported that new wire tapping laws were being instituted that would put an end to bugging phones. (Cell phone tapping was clearly not a concern, despite the invention of the hand-held mobile phone the very same year.)
The reason so many PIs are still working (contrary to the Gazette’s beliefs) is that Canadian law allows for the recording of telephone conversations as long as one person on the phone is aware that it’s being tapped. If you hire an investigator to, say, catch a cheating spouse or to search for evidence of employees misbehaving on the job, that investigator can tap your phone line the minute you give him/her consent to do so. Cell phone tapping is also permissible as long as it’s your phone – or your conversation – being tapped into by the PI.
What this ultimately means is that recording telephone conversations will remain legal for both law enforcement and for private investigators. Police and PIs will still be able to record conversations without notifying the parties involved as long as they have a warrant. And while PIs may not speak with the police when they’re looking for an adulterous spouse, most investigators work hand-in-hand with law enforcement officials for cases involving missing personas of fraud. A judge will (usually) consent to a warrant in these cases, which means that very little may change in these areas.
Other Ways of Legally Recording Telephone Conversations
Wire tapping isn’t the only way a PI can listen in on the phone. Canada’s laws on bugging phones don’t address remote listening devices. In fact, Ottawa’s airport installed surveillance equipment this June that will soon allow them to record the conversations of travelers, and they’re fully supported by the Canada Border Services Agency. Using remote listening devices is legal, so Canadian private investigators may implement this form of audio surveillance in order to circumvent the new laws about phone taps.
In the end, the new laws concerning wire tapping will be designed to protect people from willful disregard by law enforcement and by investigators, but they’re also going to help solidify evidence presented in courts of law all over the country. No matter what the newspapers say, it seems that landline and cell phone tapping will still play an important role in private investigations.