What Is Meant By a Provincial Offence?

Provincial Offences Involve Quasi-Criminal Proceedings Ranging From Minor Traffic Ticket Charges Stemming From Violations of the Highway Traffic Act to Charges For Violating the Environmental Protection Act, and Much More.

Understanding Defence Strategies For Provincial Offences Including Charges For Workplace Accidents, Pollution, Incidents, Substances Violations, and more.

Provincial Offences are also known as regulatory offences or quasi-criminal offences.  In general, provincial violations are known as strict liability offences.  Strict liability offences are charges where the prosecutor is without a need to establish mens-rea, meaning an intention or knowledge of wrongdoing); however, a person charged with a provincial offence may defend the allegations on the basis of reasonable belief in a mistaken set of facts or the on the basis of due diligence, meaning that reasonable care to avoid committing the wrongful act was taken, however, the wrongful act occurred despite the effort to avoid the wrongful act.

Numerous provincial statutes regulate the conduct of individuals and industries.  Where breaches of those regulations occur, the governing statute typically creates a corresponding offence to promote compliance with the regulatory standard.

Provincial Offence Categories

Below is a summary snapshot of various regulatory offences known as Provincial Offences that may be prosecuted per the Provincial Offences Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.33 procedures.  The offences prosecuted per the Provincial Offences Act differ significantly by subject matter as well as by gravity and the potential penalties upon a conviction.


Occupational Health and Safety Offences

The Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1, imposes duties on both workers and employers with respect to equipment, material and protective devices to ensure that our places of work are safe. The duties imposed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act on workers include wearing the clothing and equipment as specified by an employers and reporting any defects with such clothing or equipment.  Workers are also required to report any contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of which they are aware of to their employer.

Employer duties include developing and implementing a health and safety program and formulating a policy regarding workplace violence and harassment.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act creates offences for a failure to comply with prescribed provisions with maximum penalties of a $25,000 fine and up to twelve months in jail persons as well as a maximum $500,000 fine upon a corporation.

Occupational Health and Safety Act charges can be significant.  For example, numerous charges have been laid against an employer who is alleged to have failed to provide proper training and equipment to migrant workers who were killed while performing balcony repairs to a building in Toronto in December of 2009.  The sixty-one charges are reported to carry up to $17 million in fines in total.


Environmental Protection Offences

A particularly current and important area of provincial regulation is environmental protection.  The Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19, the Clean Water Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, Chapter 22, and the Pesticides Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.11, are just some examples of provincial legislation that create obligations to protect the environment with offences established for breaches of those statutes.

The Environmental Protection Act regulates pollutants and prescribes offences for incidents of spillage, seepage, and discharge.  A person in charge of a pollutant must develop a plan to reduce the relevant risks and properly respond to an incident.  The Environmental Protection Act also prohibits littering and imposes a fine.  Penalties for Environmental Protection Act violations can involve fines in the millions of dollars as well as jail time.

The Clean Water Act establishes several obligations, such as a requirement that a person with authority under the Clean Water Act who becomes aware of a water drinking hazard provides notice to the Ministry of the Environment. Under the Clean Water Act, it is an offence to continue engaging in an activity that endangers a water supply.

The Pesticides Act imposes obligations for the storage, handling, use and application, of pesticides.  Operators of businesses that make use of pesticides as well as the individuals who handle pesticides may be charged for violations.


Controlled Substances Offences

Provincial legislation also regulates the use of controlled substances, such as liquor and tobacco.  The Liquor Licence Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. L.19 and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, S.O. 2017, Chapter 26, Schedule 3, are just two examples of laws that involve controlled substances which affect numerous individuals and businesses in Ontario.  They create offences for breaches of their provisions.

The Liquor Licence Act makes it a regulatory offence to be intoxicated in a public place, to carry an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, among other things.  Additionally, individuals or businesses must be licensed to sell alcohol.  Persons convicted of a regulatory offence under the Liquor Licence Act may be subject to a maximum $100,000 fine, imprisonment for up to a year, or both.  Corporations convicted under the Liquor Licence Act may be subject to a maximum $250,000 fine.

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act makes it a regulatory offence to sell tobacco to persons under the age of nineteen or to display tobacco products in a place where such products are sold, among other restrictions.  Corporations engaged in the manufacture, sale or distribution of tobacco products can be charged a maximum of $100,000 for contravening provisions of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.


General Public Order and Safety Offences

Numerous statutes regulate matters of public order and safety.  The Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21, creates an offence where a person enters premises to where prohibited.  The Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, Chapter 4, creates many offences for violating fire codes such, among other things, as failing to install or maintain smoke detectors.  The Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, Chapter 20 regulates, and establishes offences for, among other things, the improper production, processing, or manufacturing, of food for consumption.


Consumer Protection Offences

The Consumer Protection Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, Chapter 30, Schedule 24, applies to consumer transactions in Ontario.  The Consumer Protection Act, 2002, prohibits representations to consumers that are false or misleading. It lists a number of prohibited representations, such as specifying that a certain repair is necessary when it is not or that a price advantage exists when it does not.  The Consumer Protection Act, 2002, also governs consumer transactions that take place over the internet.  It imposes an obligation on suppliers to provide consumers with a written copy of any agreement they have entered into.  The Consumer Protection Act, 2002, also enables consumers to cancel an agreement made over the internet under prescribed circumstances.

The Consumer Reporting Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.33, regulates the gathering of information about consumers.  The Consumer Reporting Act requires a consumer reporting agency to correct information when a consumer reports details of an error to the agency.  A director or an officer of a corporation who is convicted of an offence under this statute may be liable to a maximum fine of $35,000 or one year of imprisonment, or both.  There is also a maximum $100,000 penalty applicable to a corporation.

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