Nova Scotia Court Ruling Reinforces Right to Practice Legislation

Jan 30, 2024 12:00 AM

R. v Connors, 2024 NSPC 6


In 2021 and 2022, Mark Connors, who is not a professional engineer, sealed documents with an engineering stamp and signed off on plans as an engineer. He created the stamp using his computer to modify a real engineering stamp and made up a number.

Engineers Nova Scotia was notified of Mr. Connors’ unauthorized use of an engineer seal and number by a member of the public. Engineers Nova Scotia issued Mr. Connors a cease-and-desist letter and notified the police.

Following investigation by the police, Mr. Connors pled guilty to committing a single count of fraud under $5,000 between 2021 and 2022 in relation to work undertaken for two proponents, contrary to section 380(1)(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

At sentencing, Mr. Connors sought a conditional discharge following successful completion of a period of probation. He noted that the work undertaken for the two proponents was not done to a poor standard, that he was very familiar with the electrical codes, and was simply helping people in a climate where engineers are difficult to find.

The Crown, on the other hand, sought a short (three months) sharp period of incarceration, aimed at denouncing Mr. Connors’ conduct and sending a firm message of deterrence to those who would impersonate a professional, thus placing the public at risk and diminishing trust in the profession. The Crown took the position that the sentence should be served in the community and be followed by a 12-month period of probation. The Crown argued that it was contrary to the public interest that Mr. Connors receive a discharge.

In her decision on sentence, Judge van der Hoek reviewed the educational requirements for professional engineers and the need to ensure the protection of the public. Judge van der Hoek noted that Engineers Nova Scotia’s powers are limited as its governing legislation does not provide explicit statutory authority for Engineers Nova Scotia to enforce its Act outside of its disciplinary powers against members.

Judge van der Hoek acknowledged that it was clearly in Mr. Connors’ interest to receive a discharge. However, Judge van der Hoek found it would be contrary to the public interest for Mr. Connors to be discharged. She stated at paragraph 40 of the decision:


The need to protect the public from those who would hold themselves out as a professional is simply too pressing and important. This was not a one off. Mr. Connors’ actions were persistently carried out overtime and for profit. Engineering is not simply stamping drawings, and I am not convinced Mr. Connors realizes just how much he has impacted the public trust and risked the safety of the public that had cause to rely on him…Society has to be able to trust that an engineering stamp means something. Just as a person who consults a doctor relies on advice that a mole is not skin cancer, the source of advice from all professionals is backed by knowledge, skill, training, and oversight by a trusted regulator - in the public interest.


In weighing the aggravating and mitigating factors, Judge van der Hoek concluded that the former far outweighed the latter. She noted this was not a momentary loss of judgment, but a sustained and involved effort undertaken over time. Considering all the purposes and principles of sentencing, Judge van der Hoek sentenced Mr. Connors to a short sharp period of custody, to be served in the community, followed by a period of probation with the conditions recommended by the Crown. 

Official Court Decision LINK