Provincial Offences – Not Including Traffic or Driving Offences
What is a Provincial Offence?
A Provincial Offence is any act or omission that can result in quasi-criminal charges to be laid. The Provincial Crown can file such charges, as can prosecutors from the full range of provincially governed agencies, such as Employment Standards Branch, Occupational Health and Safety, Residential Tenancies (Investigations Branch), any Municipality (for fire, building code, by-law or related charge), Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Finance (usually provincial tax offences), among others. While a conviction under the Provincial Offences Act does not show up on your criminal record, the fines and penalties (including imprisonment) can be substantial.
In all Courts, the onus is on the prosecutor to prove their case. There are two kinds of charges typically seen in Provincial Offence prosecution. Absolute Liability, in which Prosecutor has to prove is that the act has been done and that the accused is the person responsible. There are very limited defences, such as necessity, to an absolute liability charge. As a rule, a conviction of an absolute liability offence means you cannot be put in jail, in Canada the Courts hold that incarceration is not available where the defences to the charge(s) is limited.
The second type of charge are Strict Liability charges, which allow for more robust defence options, including due diligence. The onus remains on the Prosecutor to prove the act beyond a reasonable doubt. As a Defence, you might prove on the balance of probabilities that you had taken reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence. In Layman’s terms, this means you took reasonable steps to ensure you were not committing the offence.
Given the nature of many of the penalties for these offences, Legal advice is sought. Whether or not you need representation can be determined at the initial consultation, where the risk of a conviction for a specific offence and the consequences stemming from that conviction can be considered. As always, it is a risk/reward type analysis that forms the basis of my recommendations for proceeding.