Peace Officers

From Criminal Law Notebook
This page was last substantively updated or reviewed January 2020. (Rev. # 92615)

General Principles

See also: Criminal Code and Related Definitions

The law vests a "peace officer" with a number of powers and immunities, including the powers relating to detention, arrest, search, and seizure.

Statutory Definition

"Peace Officer" is defined under s. 2:

"peace officer" includes

(a) a mayor, warden, reeve, sheriff, deputy sheriff, sheriff’s officer and justice of the peace,
(b) a member of the Correctional Service of Canada who is designated as a peace officer pursuant to Part I of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, and a warden, deputy warden, instructor, keeper, jailer, guard and any other officer or permanent employee of a prison other than a penitentiary as defined in Part I of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act,
(c) a police officer, police constable, bailiff, constable, or other person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace or for the service or execution of civil process,
(c.1) a designated officer as defined in section 2 of the Integrated Cross-border Law Enforcement Operations Act, when
(i) participating in an integrated cross-border operation, as defined in section 2 of that Act, or
(ii) engaging in an activity incidental to such an operation, including travel for the purpose of participating in the operation and appearances in court arising from the operation,
(d) an officer within the meaning of the Customs Act, the Excise Act or the Excise Act, 2001, or a person having the powers of such an officer, when performing any duty in the administration of any of those Acts,
(d.1) an officer authorized under subsection 138(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,
(e) a person designated as a fishery guardian under the Fisheries Act when performing any duties or functions under that Act and a person designated as a fishery officer under the Fisheries Act when performing any duties or functions under that Act or the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act,
(f) the pilot in command of an aircraft
(i) registered in Canada under regulations made under the Aeronautics Act, or
(ii) leased without crew and operated by a person who is qualified under regulations made under the Aeronautics Act to be registered as owner of an aircraft registered in Canada under those regulations,
while the aircraft is in flight, and
(g) officers and non-commissioned members of the Canadian Forces who are
(i) appointed for the purposes of section 156 of the National Defence Act, or
(ii) employed on duties that the Governor in Council, in regulations made under the National Defence Act for the purposes of this paragraph, has prescribed to be of such a kind as to necessitate that the officers and non-commissioned members performing them have the powers of peace officers;

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 2; R.S., 1985, c. 11 (1st Supp.), s. 2, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 2, 203, c. 31 (1st Supp.), s. 61, c. 1 (2nd Supp.), s. 213, c. 27 (2nd Supp.), s. 10, c. 35 (2nd Supp.), s. 34, c. 32 (4th Supp.), s. 55, c. 40 (4th Supp.), s. 2; 1990, c. 17, s. 7; 1991, c. 1, s. 28, c. 40, s. 1, c. 43, ss. 1, 9; 1992, c. 20, s. 216, c. 51, s. 32; 1993, c. 28, s. 78, c. 34, s. 59; 1994, c. 44, s. 2; 1995, c. 29, ss. 39, 40, c. 39, s. 138; 1997, c. 23, s. 1; 1998, c. 30, s. 14; 1999, c. 3, s. 25, c. 5, s. 1, c. 25, s. 1(Preamble), c. 28, s. 155; 2000, c. 12, s. 91, c. 25, s. 1(F); 2001, c. 32, s. 1, c. 41, ss. 2, 131; 2002, c. 7, s. 137, c. 22, s. 324; 2003, c. 21, s. 1; 2004, c. 3, s. 1; 2005, c. 10, s. 34, c. 38, s. 58, c. 40, ss. 1, 7; 2006, c. 14, s. 1; 2007, c. 13, s. 1; 2012, c.1, s. 160, c. 19, s. 371; 2013, c. 13, s. 2; 2014, c. 17, s. 1, c. 23, s. 2, c. 25, s. 2; 2015, c. 3, s. 44, c. 13, s. 3, c. 20, s. 15; 2018, c. 21, s. 12; 2019, c. 13, s. 140; 2019, c. 25, s. 1; 2022, c. 17, s. 1.


Note up: 2

The definition of "peace officer" within the Code "serves only to grant additional powers to enforce the criminal law to persons who must otherwise operate within the limits of their statutory or common law sources of authority."[1]

The list in s. 2 is not comprehensive and can include other persons not listed in the section.

Professions That are Not Peace Officers

Peace officers do not include:

  • a private bailiff[2]
  • municipal by-law enforcement officer[3]
  • an off-duty young offender corrections officer[4]

This does not mean that these professions cannot be peace officers. It only means that unless they are specifically made peace officers under other legislation they will not be definition fit into the definition of "peace officer" under s. 2 of the Code.

Provincial and federal acts will appoint persons to be "peace officers" within the meaning of the Criminal Code. In these cases, this designation will be limited to Criminal Code peace officer powers while the officer is in execution of duties under the enabling Act and not pursuant to Criminal Code offences.[5] When doing anything outside of the enabling legislation they are considered civilians.[6]

  1. R v Nolan, 1987 CanLII 66 (SCC), [1987] 1 SCR 1212, per Dickson CJ, at para 20
  2. R v Burns, 2002 MBCA 161 (CanLII), 170 CCC (3d) 288, per Twaddle JA, at paras 8 to 10
    R c Boisseau, 1981 CanLII 2538 (QC CM), [1981] R.L. 155, per Léger J - superior court bailiff
  3. R v Laramee, 1972 CanLII 1365 (NWT TC), 9 CCC (2d) 433 (N.W.T. Mag. Ct.), per De Weert CJ cited in R v Parsons, 2001 ABQB 42 (CanLII), 80 CRR (2d) 355, per McMahon J, at para 14
  4. R v Pillipow, 2003 SKQB 49 (CanLII), 229 Sask R 306, per Rothery J
  5. see e.g. R v Beaman, 1963 CanLII 73 (SCC), [1963] SCR 445, per Ritchie J
    Wright v The Queen, 1973 CanLII 858 (SKQB), 6 WWR 687 (Sask.), per Maher J
    R v Ingram, 1974 CanLII 985 (SK CA), 5 WWR 759, 18 CCC (2d) 200, per Culliton CJ
    Laramee, supra
  6. R v Thibeault, 2007 NBCA 67 (CanLII), 226 CCC (3d) 334, per Drapeau CJ, at para 15

Federal Agencies

A customs officer or excise officer is a peace officer under s. 2(d) when conducting duties under the Customs Act.[1] Sections 163.4 and 163.5 of the Customs Act authorizes customs officers to have the same powers as a peace officer under the Criminal Code in a limited context.[2]

  1. R v Thibeault, 2007 NBCA 67 (CanLII), 226 CCC (3d) 334, per Drapeau CJ, at para 15
  2. see Customs Act s. 163.4 and 163.5

Other Members of Law Enforcement Agencies

A traffic patrol officer can be a peace officer.[1]

A police constable under s. 44 of the Railway Safety Act is a peace officer.[2]

A "special constable" is a peace officer only for the limited purpose of their mandate, which can include participating in the execution of a search warrant.[3]

  1. R v McCloy, 1987 CanLII 4476 (SKQB), 2 MVR (2d) 293, 64 Sack. R. 166, per Noble J
  2. R v Lord, 2010 BCSC 1046 (CanLII), per Butler J
  3. R v Semeniuk, 2007 BCCA 399 (CanLII), 224 CCC (3d) 71, per Saunders JA, at para 15

Other Members of Municipal Organizations

A pound-keeper can be a peace officer.[1]

An animal control officer is only an officer for the limited purpose of "enforcing animal control legislation."[2]

  1. R v Moore, [1983] 5 WWR 176(*no CanLII links)
  2. R v Jones and Huber, [1975] 5 WWR 97, (Yukon Mag. Ct.)(*no CanLII links)

Wildlife Officers

Across many provinces, game wardens, conservation officers and wildlife officers can be a peace officer within the meaning of s. 2(c) of the Code when enforcing enabling provincial legislation.[1]

  1. R v Beaman, 1963 CanLII 73 (SCC), [1963] SCR 445, per Ritchie J - a game warden under the Game Act (NB)
    R v Jones, [1975] 5 WWR 97, 30 CRNS 127 (Y.T.)(*no CanLII links) - peace officer under s. 2(c)
    R v Rutt, 1981 CanLII 2083 (SK CA), 59 CCC (2d) 147, per Culliton JA - conservation officer under the Wildlife Act (Sask)
    R v Rushton, 1981 CanLII 3156 (NB CA), 62 CCC (2d) 403 (N.B.C.A.), per Hughes CJ - game warden
    R v Goy (1969), 5 CRNS 385, 67 WWR 375(*no CanLII links) - wardens appointed under the wildlife act is a peace officer
    R v Cook, 2006 SKPC 41 (CanLII), 278 Sask R 93, per Tucker J

Military Officers

Only under s. 2(g)(ii), and not s. 2(g)(i), is a military police officer is a peace officer.[1]

Military police may make a breath demand to a civilian present on a military base.[2]

A military police officer does not have authority outside of the base to deal with civilians.[3]

  1. R v Bryden, 1995 CanLII 4542 (NS SC), 13 MVR (3d) 89, 139 NSR (2d) 131, 397 APR 131, per MacDonald J
    R v Nolan, 1987 CanLII 66 (SCC), [1987] 1 SCR 1212, per Dickson CJ
    R v Haynes, 1994 CanLII 4160 (NS CA), 367 APR 311, per Freedman JA
    R v Harvey, 1979 ABCA 275 (CanLII), 18 AR 382, per Clement JA
    R v Smith, 1982 CanLII 358 (BC CA), 2 CCC (3d) 250, per Hinkson JA
    R v Cogswell (1979), 2 MVR 34, [1979] NBJ No 31 (N.B.C.A.)(*no CanLII links)
  2. Smith, supra
  3. Harvey, supra

Aboriginal and First Nations Officers

Aboriginal police are governed by provincial police acts.[1]

A special constable appointed under the Police Act to serve as a band constable.[2] This does not mean they are "police officers" within the meaning of the provincial Police Acts.[3] </ref> A first nations constable may be authorized as a "peace officer" outside of the territorial limits of the reserve based on their enabling legislation. The scope of power is determined by their "specified duties" as set out in the legislation, regulations, policing agreement, and terms of appointment.[4]

First nations peacekeepers are not peace officers.[5]

  1. s. 87 of the Police Act (NS)
    s. 38 of the Police Act (NB)
  2. R v Whiskeyjack, 1984 ABCA 336 (CanLII), 17 CCC (3d) 245, per Prowse JA
    R v Stephens, 1995 CanLII 626 (ON CA), 102 CCC (3d) 416, per Finlayson JA
  3. R v Decorte, 2003 CanLII 57434 (ON CA), per curiam, appealed to [2005] 1 SCR 133, 2005 SCC 9 (CanLII), per Fish J - related to a RIDE stop performed by the special constable just outside territorial limits of the reserve.
  4. Decorte, ibid.
  5. R v Suggashie, 2012 ONSC 2292 (CanLII), per Fregeau J, at paras 22 to 29

See Also