Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of answers to address many frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the SIU’s mandate, jurisdiction and investigative process. 

General Information

Why does the SIU exist?

Prior to the establishment of the SIU in 1990, police services investigated their own officers in Ontario, or in some instances, another police service was assigned to conduct the investigation. 

Over time, public concern grew about the integrity of the process in which police officers investigated other police officers, particularly in incidents of police shootings where a member of the public had been injured or killed. Simply put, there came to be a lack of public confidence in a system where police investigated themselves.

As a result, the SIU was formed in 1990 under a new Police Services Act, which established the SIU as an independent, arm’s length agency of the government, led by a Director and composed of civilian investigators.

Now legislated by the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019, Ontario’s oversight agency is tasked with conducting investigations of the circumstances around serious injuries, allegations of sexual assault, firearm discharges, and deaths in cases involving officials, which includes police.

Staffed with civilian investigators and completely separate from the province’s police services, the SIU conducts independent investigations to determine whether there are grounds to charge an official in relation to the incident under review. 

The purpose giving rise to the SIU is clear – police accountability and public confidence in Ontario's police.

What does the SIU investigate?

The SIU conducts investigations of the circumstances around serious injuries, allegations of sexual assault, firearm discharges at persons, and deaths in cases involving officials.

Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019, effective December 2020, the SIU now investigates all instances where an official discharged a firearm at a person, whether or not the person died or was seriously injured.

The SIU cannot investigate conduct, services and policies that do not meet these criteria.

Who are "officials"?

Officials include municipal and provincial police officers, In addition to police officers, the SIU is now also mandated under the Special Investigations Act to investigate the conduct of special constables with the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers of the Legislative Protective Services. 

Collectively, these persons are known as “officials” under the Act.

What are "serious injuries"?

Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019, a person sustains a serious injury if he or she's serious injury is defined as an injury likely to interfere with someone’s health or comfort that is not transient or trifling in nature is:

A serious injury is presumed when a person: 

is admitted to hospital as a result of the injury, 
suffers a fracture to the skull, or to a limb, rib or vertebra, 
suffers burns to a significant proportion of his or her body, 
loses any portion of his or her body, or,
as a result of an injury, experiences a loss of vision or hearing.

Who are SIU investigators?

The SIU’s investigative complement consists of personnel who are stationed at the Unit’s office in Mississauga and investigators who are strategically located throughout the province.  This blend allows the head office to oversee and manage investigations, while retaining the flexibility to respond quickly to incident scenes across the province with investigators who reside closer to the scenes. 

All SIU investigators are civilians.  They come to the SIU from a variety of backgrounds ranging from policing, Ministry of Labour and Ministry of the Attorney General, transit authority, security, and bylaw enforcement. Of the 16 lead investigators currently employed by the SIU, 10 have never worked as police officers in Ontario. Of the 27 as-required investigators, nine have civilian backgrounds and 18 come to the Unit with a police background. The nine forensic investigators employed by the SIU have police backgrounds. (The numbers are accurate as of December 1, 2021).  

The Unit’s investigative team has extensive experience investigating serious incidents, such as deaths, sexual assault allegations, serious assaults, shootings and motor vehicle collisions. 

Is there a time limit in relation to when incidents can be reported to the SIU?

Incidents can be reported to the SIU days, weeks, months and even years after they have occurred. 

The SIU often undertakes investigations of historical complaints against officials. However, the later an incident is reported, the more difficult it may be to uncover the physical and witness evidence relevant to the complaint.

The SIU is not authorized, however, to investigate all historical incidents. The SIU can only investigate incidents involving a firearm discharge that does not result in death or serious injury, or a special constable with the Niagara Parks Commission or peace officer with the Legislative Protective Service, if the incident occurred on or after December 1, 2020. 

What changes have been made at the SIU since the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019, went into force?

The Act promises to make for more effective and transparent investigations in a number of ways, such as: 

  • There is now a duty on police services and officials to comply with all lawful SIU requests. A breach in the duty constitutes an offence with penalties consisting of a fine or imprisonment. 
  • Where possible, SIU investigations must also now be completed within 120 days. 
  • SIU must publish reports of all SIU investigations that have not resulted in criminal charges, with the exception of reports related to sexual assault. 
  • The SIU also now investigates all instances where an official discharged a firearm at a person, whether or not the person died or was seriously injured.
Other major changes are summarized here.

Questions from Complainants and/or Witnesses

I think I may have witnessed an SIU incident. What do I do?

If you believe you may have been witness to an incident which is under investigation by the SIU you may complete an appeal for witness form online or contact the SIU at 416-622-0748 or 1-800-787-8529.

Will the information I provide be kept confidential?

As a key step in the investigative process with witnesses, excluding police witnesses, the SIU issues a Confidentiality Assurance. This Assurance provides that the individual’s privacy and confidentiality rights are protected to every extent possible.

I would like to know the status of an investigation pertaining to myself or a family member. Who do I contact?

Case status is only provided to complainants or family members of a deceased complainant. Status updates are provided by the SIU lead investigator on the case. If you are a complainant and have been contacted by an SIU lead investigator, please contact the investigator directly. Alternatively you can call the SIU head office at 416-622-0748 or 1-800-787-8529 and request to speak with an Investigative Supervisor.

I have suffered a serious injury resulting from an interaction with police. How do I make a complaint?

If you have suffered a serious injury in an interaction with a member(s) of an Ontario police service, you may contact the SIU on its website or please call the SIU head office at 416-622-0748 or 1-800-787-8529 and request to speak with an Investigative Supervisor.

How do I get access to information pertaining to a specific case?

Public reporting is an important aspect of the SIU's commitment to transparency and accountability. In delivering on this commitment, Director’s Reports, which detail the course of the investigations, the relevant findings of fact, and the reasons for the Director’s decision on whether criminal charges were warranted, are published on the website when the SIU does not proceed with charges. Where the SIU lays charges, the matter is referred to prosecution and the SIU issues a news release.

The SIU also issues news releases at various stages of an investigation for the public to easily access.

SIU Director’s Reports can be accessed via the following link:

News releases can be accessed here:

Information related to ongoing cases can be found here:

How do I get a copy of the Director’s Report?

Though the SIU had publicly released Director’s Reports on its website prior to the coming into effect of the SIU Act in December 2020, the Act now requires that all such reports be published on the website, with the exception of reports about sexual assault.

A Director’s Report sets out the course of the investigation, a summary of the evidence and the findings of fact by the Director, and the reasons for the Director’s decision not to proceed with criminal charges. There are no Director’s Reports in relation to cases resulting in criminal charges by the SIU. In those instances, charges are laid by the SIU and referred to the Crown’s Office for prosecution, and a news release to that effect is issued.

SIU Director’s Reports can be accessed via the following link:

Investigative Process

How does the SIU receive notice of incidents?

The SIU is mandated to investigate any interaction involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault or if someone has been shot at.  All Ontario police services are under a legal obligation to immediately notify the SIU of incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death involving their officials, with some exceptions. This obligation also extends to the Niagara Parks Commission and Legislative Protective Service.

The SIU is also notified of incidents by complainants themselves or their families, members of the media, lawyers, coroners and those in the medical profession. 

In fact, any member of the public can notify the SIU of an incident by calling the SIU directly at 1-800-787-8529 or 416-622-0748.

How long do SIU investigations take?

Where possible, SIU investigations must be completed within 120 days. 

Must officials cooperate with the SIU?

Yes.  The former “duty to cooperate” that bound police officers in relation to SIU requests is now a “duty to comply”, which applies to all officials, except for subject officials. An individual who fails to comply is guilty of an offence and could be subject to a penalty.   

Who is a “Subject Official”?

The subject official is defined as an official whose conduct, in the Director’s opinion, may have caused the death, serious injury, firearm discharge or alleged sexual assault under investigation. 

Subject officials are invited, but not compelled to present themselves for an interview with the SIU and they do not have to submit their notes to the SIU.  Once he/she becomes the focus of an investigation and therefore under criminal jeopardy, the subject official is granted the same rights as any citizen under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect himself/herself from self-incrimination.

Who is a “Witness Official”?

A witness official is an official who, in the opinion of the SIU Director, is involved in the incident under investigation but is not a subject official.

Witness officials have a duty under the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019, to submit to interviews with SIU investigators at the earliest opportunity.  The SIU is also entitled to a copy of their notes.

Does the SIU investigate off-duty police officers?

With respect to the SIU’s statutory jurisdiction, the previous legislation did not differentiate between on-duty and off-duty police officers.  

The new legislation specifies that the SIU can only investigate an off-duty official if the official was engaged in the investigation, pursuit, detention or arrest of a person or otherwise exercised the powers of a police officer, special constable or peace officer. It also says the SIU can investigate an off-duty incident if it involved equipment or other property issued to the official in relation to his or her duties.

What does the investigation consist of?

The investigation consists of a number of tasks, including:

  • examining the scene and securing all physical evidence
  • monitoring the medical condition of anyone who has been injured
  • seeking out and securing the cooperation of witnesses
  • interviewing police witnesses
  • seizing police equipment for forensic examination
  • consulting with the coroner if there has been a death
  • notifying next of kin and keeping the family of the deceased or injured parties informed

How do you determine how many investigators should be dispatched?

The SIU supervisor who receives the initial call from the police service obtains all available information about the event that just occurred.  The supervisor then decides how many investigators and forensic investigators should respond.  

Typically, the supervisor will saturate the initial response with resources to manage the incident.  Once the lead investigator arrives, he/she determines the need for additional or fewer staff and the supervisor will re-assess the Unit’s deployment accordingly.

What happens at the end of an investigation?

The SIU conducts independent investigations to determine whether there are grounds to charge an official in relation to the incident under review. Where such grounds exist, the SIU Director is compelled to charge the officer. Conversely, where the grounds do not exist, the SIU Director cannot lay charges, and instead issues a public report – the Director’s Report - summarizing the investigation and their reasons for the decision.

What happens to officials who get charged?

Once the SIU has laid a charge against an official, the Unit refers the matter to Justice Prosecutions of the Criminal Law Division at the Ministry of the Attorney General, which prosecutes the charge. The SIU, as an investigative agency, is not involved in the prosecution, although it does participate by preparing the Crown brief and assisting the Crown.

While the SIU publicly announces when it has laid a charge against a police officer, the Unit releases limited information regarding the basis of that charge in order to protect the fair trial interests of that police officer and the community.

Whether or not an official who has been charged by the SIU is subject to employment consequences by her or his employer is a matter entirely within the purview of their employer.

Who makes the final decision in a case?

Under the Special Investigations Act, 2019, the Director has the sole authority to decide whether or not charges are warranted. The Director takes into consideration all aspects of an investigation and arrives at the decision by applying established legal tests set out in the criminal law. 

Does the SIU reopen cases?

In order to reopen an investigation, the Director has to be satisfied that there is new information available that could materially affect the outcome of an investigation.  The SIU has reopened cases when this criterion has been met.

Media Related

What does the SIU have to consider when releasing information to the public?

The new Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019, promises to make for more effective and transparent investigations in a number of ways. This includes new legislation that says, where possible, SIU investigations must now be completed within 120 days. In addition, the legislation requires that the SIU publish on its website reports of all SIU investigations that have not resulted in criminal charges, with exceptions for reports related to allegations of sexual assault.

We try to provide as much information as possible in the interest of transparency and accountability to those we serve. However, we must protect the independence of the Unit and must take into account issues such as:
  • Sensitivity of evidentiary information
  • Balancing fair trial interests                      
  • Confidentiality Assurances to witnesses who provide information to us
  • Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019
  • Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act
  • Youth Criminal Justice Act, and
  • Other laws restricting the release of information.

What does the legislation say about what the police or the SIU can say publicly during an investigation?

The Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019, restricts a police force from releasing any information about an incident under the SIU’s investigation except for stating that the SIU has been notified of the incident and is investigating.

The Act similarly restricts when the SIU can make public statements during an ongoing investigation. Public statements are only permitted where they are aimed at preserving public confidence and where the benefit of doing so clearly outweighs any detriment to the integrity of the investigation.  

Why is the SIU so limited in what it can say while an investigation is ongoing?

While the investigation is ongoing, SIU investigators are in the process of gathering and assessing all the facts surrounding the incident.  Consequently, we cannot speculate or comment on information that may jeopardize the integrity of the work that we are continuing to do.  In addition, we are restricted in what information can be released by the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019.

Why doesn’t the SIU release autopsy reports, or any other reports during the course of an investigation?

As per our process with all SIU cases, the Unit does not release details that could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.  

How do we find out if someone, other than an officer, is charged in relation to the incident?

As the SIU is not the charging authority, it would be the responsibility of the police service that would be laying the charge to release this information.

Why won’t the SIU release the identity of the subject official?

The release of such information is prohibited by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act both before and after the case is closed.  Of course, if a charge is laid, the name is released since an information is lodged with the court and becomes part of the public record. 

While the investigation is ongoing, what is the employment status of the subject official?

Because it is an employment issue, you would have to ask the police service for whom the subject officer works.

What happens if an official is charged?

Once a charge is laid, it is referred to Justice Prosecutions at the Ministry of the Attorney General, which conducts the prosecution.  At the time of charge, the SIU is not at liberty to comment further in order to protect the officer’s and the public’s interest in a fair trial. 

We have a great judicial system in Canada in which each level has its own role.  After the SIU investigates and collects evidence, the Director must decide whether, based on the evidence, there are reasonable grounds to lay a charge.  If the Director lays a charge, the Crown Attorney prosecutes the charge.  The Crown Attorney must determine whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction, which is a higher test than reasonable grounds.  If the case meets this test, the case goes to court, where the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal offence occurred. 

What is an inquest?

In Ontario, the Coroners Act requires an inquest when death results while the deceased is in custody of a peace officer or when the use of force of a police officer was a cause of death.  The inquest is a public hearing held for the purpose of presenting evidence to a jury of five members of the community in which a person died.  It is not to determine criminality, nor is it to assign blame.

After hearing the evidence relevant to the circumstances of the death the jury must answer five questions: who was the deceased and how, where, when and by what means did the deceased die.  Based on the evidence, the jury may make recommendations that, if implemented, might avoid deaths in similar circumstances. For information regarding inquests, please visit the Office of the Chief Coroner

Do the police also investigate SIU incidents internally?

Yes. Section 32 of O.Reg. 268/10 requires a police force to investigate SIU incidents. These investigations are administrative in nature and are conducted by the police service at the conclusion of the SIU investigation. 

A Section 32 investigation must be completed within 30 days of the Director’s Report being published or the SIU’s public report that charges have been laid. The conclusion and recommendations arising from the Section 32 investigation shall be reported to the respective Police Service Board within 30 days.