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Fire Service Law

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Course Description

This course is required in the Certificate in Fire Service Administration
Prerequisite: None

This course is not designed to turn fire officers into lawyers in 12 weeks. The law is far too complex a subject to do that. On the other hand, precisely because the law is complex, it is necessary to have an introductory understanding of the law for two reasons. First and foremost, since ignorance of the law is no excuse, an understanding of the law may prevent actions which result in violations of law and potential liability to the individual or the fire department or municipality. Second, a knowledge of the law makes us “informed consumers”. As such it becomes easier to consult with a lawyer or the law department of the municipality. In short, an introductory understanding of the law “keeps us out of trouble”. When that fails, an understanding of the law reduces the negative consequences of such “trouble”.

This course contains five units which apply the law to the fire service. As usual, you will read the introduction, objectives and required readings of each unit. The supplementary material applies the actual material to the fire service. Unfortunately, there is no text on Canadian fire service law. Thus the supplemental materials are developed in its place. Moreover, the supplemental materials concentrate on relevant provincial legislation within the Maritime Provinces. Even then differences among Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are noted. You will also be exposed to self test exercises either in the seminar or at home.

The five units are as follows:
Unit 1 - Introduction to the Canadian Legal System, presents a brief history of Canadian law. Distinction is made among the areas of law with particular emphasis being placed on the distinction between civil and criminal law.
Unit 2 - Incorporation of Fire Departments, addresses the several different ways in which fire departments may be incorporated in the Maritimes. The basic advantages and disadvantages of incorporation are discussed as well as the implications of failing to incorporate.
Unit 3 - Criminal Law and Procedure, presents material on criminal justice system procedures as well as the different laws which pertain to arson related offenses. Students will, during the seminar, be presented with adaptations of actual cases. During the development of the case scenario, students will play the roles of crown prosecutor, jury and judge.
Unit 4 - Tort Law, considers issues of liability and negligence. As well civil court procedures are developed. Finally particular attention is paid to the legal responsibilities of the drivers of emerging vehicles by considering the respective provincial motor vehicle acts and also the relevant case law which defines driver responsibilities.
Unit 5 - The Collection, Preservation and Presentation of Evidence, pays particular attention to issues related to arson. The “do’s and don’ts” of evidence preservation at the fire scene are presented. As well, students will be exposed to the partial presentation of an actual civil trial pertaining to arson. Specifically, the arson investigator’s testimony and cross-examination will be presented.

Unit 1: Learning Objectives

With the completion of this unit you will be able to:

  • explain the meaning of the term law;
  • explain why we need laws;
  • understand the historical origins of Canadian law;
  • understand the various classifications of law;
  • explain how statutory law is enacted;
  • describe what is meant by a country's constitution;
  • understand the scope and significance of the Canadian Constitution;
  • describe the structure of the federal and provincial judicial system;
  • understand where cases are found, how they are decided and how they may be appealed.

Unit 2: Learning Objectives

With the completion of this unit you will be able to:

  • define what is meant by the word 'incorporation';
  • understand the reasons or advantages for incorporating;
  • distinguish between the established methods of incorporating;
  • understand the obligations of a fire department once incorporated;
  • understand the implications of not incorporating a fire department;
  • understand some of the implications of municipal amalgamation;
  • understanding mutual aid agreements and their purpose.

Unit 3: Learning Objectives

With the completion of this unit you will be able to:

  • define what is meant by a crime;
  • distinguish between Federal and Provincial offenses;
  • list the main steps in the prosecution of a criminal case;
  • distinguish between indictable and summary conviction offenses;
  • list the rights of an accused person pursuant to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  • list various types of crime;
  • explain when criminal negligence constitutes a criminal offence;
  • list several defenses available to a person charged with a crime;
  • explain the principles of sentencing.

Unit 4: Learning Objectives

With the completion of this unit you will be able to:

  • define what is meant by the legal term "tort";
  • distinguish between intentional torts and negligence;
  • identify the six basic categories of intentional torts;
  • identify the five basic defenses to intentional torts;
  • explain the four elements of negligence;
  • identify various special types of liability for negligence;
  • identify the three categories of damages and explain how each is assessed;
  • explain various methods of compensating tort victims which are alternatives to tort law;
  • understand the application of tort law and in particular negligence to the fire service;
  • describe the trial process in tort actions.

Unit 5: Learning Objectives

With the completion of this unit you will be able to:

  • explain the meaning of the term "evidence";
  • understand the value of evidence in legal proceedings;
  • identify the major classifications of evidence;
  • identify the major exclusionary rules by which evidence may be rendered inadmissible;
  • understand the role that a fire officer can play in collecting and preserving
  • evidence and in presenting evidence in testimony at a trial;
  • identify the "dos" and "don'ts" for fire officers appearing as witnesses in legal proceedings.

Course Author

James Morris, B.A., L.L.B.        
James Morris is a partner in the Halifax law firm of Morris, Bureau. He was admitted to the Nova Scotia bar in 1982 and conducts a general practice with emphasis in family law and civil litigation. In addition to his professional experience, James has a strong background in community work, having served on several national and local boards of directors. James is the principal author of the Fire Service Law course of the Certificate in Fire Service Administration, and, since 1987, has taught the course to members of the fire service in Canada.

Instructor