Ontario court upholds policing powers of private law enforcement in OSPCA case


TORONTO — Ontario’s top court has affirmed the policing powers of the province’s animal welfare agency, striking down a lower court’s ruling that called into question the constitutionality of private law enforcement.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario says a lower court judge erred in introducing “reasonable standards of transparency and accountability” as a principle of fundamental justice.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Justice Robert Sharpe says while it’s “a good idea and sound public policy” to make law enforcement bodies transparent and accountable, it is not constitutionally mandated.

The panel also struck down the application judge’s ruling that the Ontario Society for the Protection of Animals’ powers infringe on the charter right to liberty and security.

Sharpe noted there are intermediate steps between the OSPCA investigation and a person’s potential conviction and imprisonment.

The lawsuit, filed six years ago by Jeffrey Bogaerts of the Ontario Landowners Association, challenged the OSPCA’s powers to investigate offences and lay criminal charges.