Investigation of Military-Civilian Aircraft Accidents


Under Canada’s Aeronautics Act, the Minister of National Defence is required to designate a member of the Canadian Armed Forces or an employee of the Department of National Defence as the Airworthiness Investigative Authority (“AIA”).  The AIA is responsible for advancing aviation safety by investigating military occurrences and military-civilian occurrences (which are accidents or incidents involving a civilian aircraft and a military aircraft).  Canada’s Director of Flight Safety has been designated as the AIA.

Although the Aeronautics Act currently provides the AIA with many similar powers as those granted to Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, AIA investigators are presently not authorized to compel civilians (including civilian aviation companies performing contract work for the military) to provide statements or relevant documents or to submit to medical examinations.  In addition, the powers of investigators under the Aeronautics Act were only to be exercised during the conduct of strictly military aviation accident investigations (in other words, investigations that do not involve civilians).

Although civilian aviation companies that support military aviation are contractually obligated to participate in investigations, any non-compliance on their part could only be pursued by the AIA in the civil courts as a breach of contract, which “can involve a slow and cumbersome process”.

Because of these concerns, new regulations under the Aeronautics Act were proposed to ensure that the AIA has sufficient powers to complete its investigations in both military-civilian aviation accidents and strictly military aviation accidents.  The proposed regulations set out requirements for mandatory reporting by civilians of military-civilian occurrences to the AIA, the preservation of evidence, the keeping of records, the rights and privileges of observers involved in investigations, and warrants/notices to be issued by the AIA for search/seizure, production of information, the providing of statements, medical examinations, disclosure of patient information by a physician or health practitioner, and the performance of autopsies.  The proposed regulations came into force on October 22, 2018, pursuant to an Order in Council.  The full text of the regulations can be found here.

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