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Information and Transparency
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• Powers of Inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act
Part of Information and Transparency
Certain public bodies, such as the The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) see law00086?, have powers to conduct public inquiries under Part II of the Public Inquiries Act, http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90p41_e.htm excerpted below. The Ontario electronic "elaws" are updated regularly, so check for any changes to the excerpts below.
What are the powers under Part II of the Public Inquiries Act?
Essentially, this section gives the inquiring body court-like powers to compel witnesses to attend the inquiry, demand that documents be produced, and administer oaths, and make a finding of contempt.
Provincial cabinet may also establish commissions of public inquiries defined as "one or more persons appointed to conduct an inquiry under this Act;" "concerning any matter connected with or affecting the good government of Ontario or the conduct of any part of the public business thereof or of the administration of justice therein or that the Lieutenant Governor in Council declares to be a matter of public concern and the inquiry is not regulated by any special law".(see section 2) Public Inquiries Act
R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER P.41
Power to summon witnesses, papers, etc.
7. (1) A commission may require any person by summons,
(a) to give evidence on oath or affirmation at an inquiry; or
(b) to produce in evidence at an inquiry such documents and things as the commission may specify,
relevant to the subject-matter of the inquiry and not inadmissible in evidence at the inquiry under section 11. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 7 (1).
Form and service of summons
(2) A summons issued under subsection (1) shall be in Form 1 and shall be served personally on the person summoned and he or she shall be paid at the time of service the like fees and allowances for attendance as a witness before the commission as are paid for the attendance of a witness summoned to attend before the Superior Court of Justice. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 7 (2); 2006, c. 19, Sched. C, s. 1 (1).
Stated case for contempt for failure to attend hearing, etc.
8.Where any person without lawful excuse,
(a) on being duly summoned under section 7 as a witness at an inquiry, makes default in attending at the inquiry; or
(b) being in attendance as a witness at an inquiry, refuses to take an oath or to make an affirmation legally required by the commission to be taken or made, or to produce any document or thing in his or her power or control legally required by the commission to be produced to it, or to answer any question to which the commission may legally require an answer; or
(c) does any other thing that would, if the commission had been a court of law having power to commit for contempt, have been contempt of that court, the commission may state a case to the Divisional Court setting out the facts and that court may, on the application of the commission or of the Attorney General, inquire into the matter and, after hearing any witnesses who may be produced against or on behalf of that person and after hearing any statement that may be offered in defense, punish or take steps for the punishment of that person in like manner as if he or she had been guilty of contempt of the court. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 8.
Protection of witnesses
9.(1)A witness at an inquiry shall be deemed to have objected to answer any question asked him or her upon the ground that his or her answer may tend to criminate the witness or may tend to establish his or her liability to civil proceedings at the instance of the Crown or of any person, and no answer given by a witness at an inquiry shall be used or be receivable in evidence against him or her in any trial or other proceedings against him or her thereafter taking place, other than a prosecution for perjury in giving such evidence. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 9 (1).
Right to object
(2)A witness shall be informed by the commission of his or her right to object to answer any question under section 5 of the Canada Evidence Act. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 9 (2).
No discipline of employees
9.1 (1) No adverse employment action shall be taken against any employee of any person because the employee, acting in good faith, has made representations as a party or has disclosed information either in evidence or otherwise to a commission under this Act or to the staff of a commission. 2000, c. 14, s. 1.
(2) Any person who contrary to subsection (1) takes adverse employment action against an employee is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $5,000. 2000, c. 14, s. 1.
(3) This section applies despite any other Act and the oath of office of a public servant within the meaning of the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 is not breached where information is disclosed as described in subsection (1). 2000, c. 14, s. 1; 2006, c. 35, Sched. C, s. 113.
(4) This section applies to representations made, and information disclosed, on or after June 12, 2000. 2000, c. 14, s. 1.
Unsworn evidence admissible
10.A commission may admit at an inquiry evidence not given under oath or affirmation. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 10.
11.Nothing is admissible in evidence at an inquiry that would be inadmissible in a court by reason of any privilege under the law of evidence. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 11.
Release of documents
12.(1)Documents and things produced in evidence at an inquiry shall, upon request of the person who produced them or the person entitled thereto, be released to the person by the commission within a reasonable time. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 12 (1).
Photocopies of documents
(2)Where a document has been produced in evidence before a commission, the commission may or the person producing it may with the leave of the commission, cause the document to be photocopied and the photocopy may be filed in evidence in the place of the document produced, and a copy of a document produced in evidence, certified to be a true copy thereof by the commission, is admissible in evidence in proceedings in which the document produced is admissible, as evidence of the document produced. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 12 (2).
Power to administer oaths and require evidence under oath
13.A commission has power to administer oaths and affirmations for the purpose of an inquiry and may require evidence before it to be given under oath or affirmation. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 13.
Powers of each of two or more commissioners
14.Where two or more persons are appointed to make an inquiry, any one of them may exercise the powers conferred by section 7, 12 or 13. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.41, s. 14.