Search warrants and professional secrecy

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Further to an article titled “Protecting Privacy” that appeared in the December 2014 issue of CPA Magazine, we wish to reiterate some of the principles of professional secrecy which must be adhered to by all Quebec CPAs.

The following quote appears on page 34 of the article, which dealt in part with Bill C-131,  the federal government’s draft legislation intended to give police forces additional tools to investigate cybercrime:

“[…] Twenty years ago, police could not just confiscate the filing cabinets of an accounting firm […]. Police had to determine what they were looking for beforehand. Today, they leave with all the disk drives of a firm’s computers, which contain a lot more than filing cabinets. […]”

The Order would like to remind members that in Quebec, professional secrecy as provided for in section 60.4 of the Professional Code is a fundamental right entrenched in section 9 of Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.2

During the execution of a search warrant, CPAs are responsible for reminding the seizing officer that clients are entitled to professional secrecy and for making sure they are not denied this right.

To learn more about CPAs and professional secrecy, watch the following free e-learning webcasts: “Affaires juridiques – Secret professionnel” (in French only) and “Issues for CPAs in matters of professional secrecy and liability insurance.”3  The latter discusses what to do in the event of a formal demand, a search warrant or any other procedure compelling the disclosure of information or documents.

If you have any questions about the right to professional secrecy, please do not hesitate to contact the syndic of the Order at 514 288.3256 or toll-free at 1 800 363.4688, making sure to give the reason for your call.

1 An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, 2nd Session, 41st Parliament, 62 Elizabeth II, 2013.
2 CQLR, c C-12.
3 These training activities may not be eligible under the Règlement sur la formation continue obligatoire des comptables professionnels agréés du Québec.