There are really two key times where a workplace investigation may arise, although they could potentially happen for other reasons as well.
The first is an instance of harassment. Some provinces such as Ontario legally require an employer to investigate upon learning of an incident of harassment, whether sexual or otherwise. The law does not dictate the form that that investigation must take, so an investigation for an alleged ‘tasteless joke’ that had offended a co-worker might look very different than an investigation for an allegation of sexual assault. In any event, employers are supposed to investigate before proceeding to any discipline.
The other time that investigations come up is if there have been any allegations of bad behaviour. If you have been accused of theft or dishonesty for example, an employer should investigate before proceeding to any discipline. This gives the employer the opportunity to review all the evidence rather than make any sort of rash decision.