Ontario gives security guards more power during Pan Am games

Security guards at Pan Am Games events in Hamilton and across the GTHA have been exempted from the regulation that states they are not to be "providing services or performing duties connected with police."

Security guards given new powers

For the Pan Am Games security guards are no longer prevented from "providing services or performing duties connected with police." (Alistair Forrester Shankie/iStock)

Security guards at Pan Am Games events in Hamilton and across the GTHA have been exempted from the regulation that states they are not to be "providing services or performing duties connected with police."

It's not clear yet what new powers security guards will be given.

Opposition parties said, Thursday, that Ontario's Liberal government has once again changed a law in secret, this time to give private security guards more powers during the Pan Am Games in 2015.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said the government followed normal rules to change the regulations to allow the Ontario Provincial Police to hire private guards to augment the security force during the Pan Am Games and for up to eight months afterwards.

"This is not about secret anything," insisted Wynne. "It's about following the process to make sure we have the security in place. That's all it's about."

Police given more powers during G20 summit in Toronto

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Liberals should know better than to quietly give security guards more powers, especially after they passed a law in secret in 2010 to give police more powers during the G20 summit in Toronto.

"There might be a process of changing regulations that doesn't require debate in the house," admitted Horwath.

"However, you'd think the government would be sensitive to these very kind of regulation changes, and be a little bit more up front with the public, because we saw what happened with the secret regulations for G20."

More than 1,100 people were arrested during the G20 summit in what Ombudsman Andre Marin called the largest violation of civil liberties in Canadian history.

The Progressive Conservatives said the $113 million security budget for the Pan Am Games is way too low, and they're worried the Liberals are looking to save money by hiring private guards.

"I don't think that there is a plan for security and if there is I think it's woefully inadequate," said PC Pan Am critic Rod Jackson.

"Now that they're looking at probably cutting corners by getting rent-a-cops and giving them the same powers as police is extremely disturbing to me."

No police powers for private security guards, Wynne says

The government is not bestowing police powers on private security guards, insisted Wynne.

"It's not about expanding anyone's powers. It's not about giving people police powers who don't have them," she said. "It's about making sure that we have the security guards that we need to do the work."

Horwath said people need to know what kind of training the security guards will get, or if they will have the authority to stop and question people on the street.

"I'm urging the government to be more transparent and open with people about what to expect with this engagement now of security with the OPP when it comes to the Pan Am Games," she said. "People need to know what the rules are, and what the restrictions are in terms of those rules, and that's going to be extremely important."

The opposition parties said they don't understand why security guards were granted the exemption from the regulation that they not perform police duties until March 2016, eight months after the Pan Am Games end.

"If we don't need them until 2016, they aren't going to hire them," said Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur.


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