A Brief History Of Law Enforcement In Canada

In honor of Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday, and its rich history, this blog is dedicated to the history of Private Security in Canada.

The first law enforcement models in Europe – and Canada’s ruler, Britain – were knights that would stand guard outside castles throughout the day and at night. They would provide access control to the castle and fight off intruders. They were dressed in tin armor from head to toe and carried swords as protection. They were initially paid in the form of land holdings and their role was regarded as a lower class position in society.

In the 17th and 18th century, watchmen and citizen patrols were used to help maintain law and order in Quebec and Upper Canada, which is known today as Ontario.

In the mid-19th Century Britain began pulling its army out of Canada and the need for Canada to establish its own militia became apparent. By 1866 they were known as the 1st York Troop the Governor Generals Body Guard for Canada. Although this would be closer to today’s Canadian Army, the need was to provide security by conducting patrols of the rail line and protecting the telegraph station.

In 1865 the government paid a small police force to protect the border, this would be close to today’s Ontario Provincial Police.[1]

During the World Wars the number of individuals needed to help protect and provide intelligence increased greatly and some of those jobs have evolved into roles that are known today as Private Investigators and Security Guards.

Since World War II the growth of Private Security Guards has grown exponentially throughout the world, and Canada is no exception. The recognition of the need for Private Security did not stop after the World Wars, and as a result the number of Private Security Guards today outnumbers that of police officers, two to one.

As crime has increased and Police cannot be everywhere all of the time, store owners, Corporations, and Politicians and Celebrities all recognize the need to have Security presence, either on an irregular basis (spot check) or on a full time, around the clock basis.

Over the years, with advancements in technology, the number of guards positioned at a site has decreased compared to the medieval times when there would be several guards outside the perimeter of the property, as well as inside. With cameras, motion sensors, access control and other technology, not nearly as many guards are needed to protect a large site. However, a guards job could never be completely replaced by technology.

In 1999 the pivotal death of Patrick Shand left the Ontario Government no choice but to reform the Security Industry to ensure Guards are trained properly.

Shand was placed under arrest without being given a reason, a retail store employee pressed their body against Shand’s back, while restrained, which led to his suffocation due to excited delirium which caused him to asphyxiate and die. Part of the Jury’s recommendation and the outcome of this case was that Ontario put a bigger emphasis on the training Security Guards receive prior to deploying for a Security Agency.

Out of this the Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005 was born, which mandates all individuals take a 40 hour security course and pass a Ministry test in order to receive their Security Licence. The Act also brought about uniform changes, as a lot of Security companies preferred the para military uniforms that were all black or dark blue and were often confused as police. Security Guards uniforms were also expected to have the word “Security” printed on them in large letters and Security Guards were mandated to keep their licence or name in a visible place on their person while working.

Today, Security throughout Canada is regulated by each Province. Most Provinces now have a mandated 40 hour course to become a Security Guard.  Most companies will also provide Use of Force training which are conducted either by an experience Security professional or an experienced Law Enforcement Professional. These course are specifically designed to help Guards understand how to safely restrain and apprehend individuals when needed. Although Use of Force training is not mandated by the Government, Agencies have adapted the training in an effort to reduce incidents of injury among Guards and people being arrested.

The Law Enforcement industry in Canada has evolved greatly since the early days of Knights wearing tin suites, and it will no doubt continue to evolve as technology changes, as well as social, economic and cultural conditions.