Security guards are often seen walking the streets of Vancouver, but until now there have been no laws governing the way they interact with tourists, residents, or those who call the streets home. All that has changed with the province’s recent implementation of a new Security Services Act, which includes a Code of Conduct that regulates how members of the security industry work with the public.
While some advocacy groups are pleased with the new legislation there is still the feeling that it does not go far enough.
The new act, which came into effect in September, dictates that anyone engaged in security work must “act with honesty”, “must not use unnecessary force”, “must respect the privacy of others”, and “must treat all persons equally, without discrimination.”
“The private security industry has grown exponentially in the last number of years,” said Bill Carver, the deputy registrar of security services for the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “So to encourage professionalism and accountability within the private security industry the Code of Conduct was adopted.”
The new act replaces the 27-year-old Private Investigator Security Agencies Act (PISA) that lacked regulations about acceptable conduct, according to Carver. He added that all security workers would be mailed a copy of the code along with their licenses.
Darcie Bennet of the Pivot Legal Society, a non-profit advocacy organization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, said the code also needs to get “in the hands of the people they are interacting with so that [people] have a reference point in terms of knowing what their rights are.”
“The populations that are most impacted aren’t going to be searching the Internet to find this information,” said Bennet.
The public complaints process that was introduced with the legislation requires anyone who wants to file a complaint to go to the Ministry’s website and download a PDF form which must then be mailed in.
Community members unsatisfied
As a large number of the homeless are Aboriginal, the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA) has called for the patrols to do more.
“They should actually be exposed to training with the elders and the spiritual leaders to be the ones who can go around and check on the health status of the people who are living out here,” said Seisˆˆlom Williams, an UNYA mediation worker.
Clarence Dennis, a 66–year-old homeless man who lives in Commercial Drive’s Grandview Park, also believes that the private security workers who patrol the neighbourhood’s streets on behalf of its Business Improvement Association (BIA) could be more effective.
“They don’t do any good for the homeless people or the community. They just walk through, like the police do, drive by in their cars. They never say how are you, or who are you anyway, we can help you — they never say that.”
Dennis heads a recently formed group of homeless men and women in the Commercial Drive area called the Homeless Nations, which seeks to change the negative image of the homeless by giving them a face and a voice.
“[Patrols are] just another arm of the police and we don’t need that,” said Dennis. “We need people to come up and say, how can I help you.”
Michelle Barile, the executive director of the Commercial Drive BIA, said that it was important to balance the needs of businesses with the needs of those on the street.
“Our mandate as a business association is to promote and develop business in the area and obviously we are here to assist our business members, but we want to be compassionate and respectful at the end of the day,” said Barile.
Other major features of the new act include the addition of the new sectors that must now be licensed — such as armoured car guards — and that security workers are now responsible for applying for and attaining their own licenses.
Previously, the security companies applied for the employees’ license and the employees would have to get a new license each time they signed on with a different company. Under the new act, the licenses are portable from job to job.
“It makes employees more accountable,” said Harry Stausgaard, vice-president and owner of Fusion Security, the company used by the Commercial Drive BIA. Stausgaard added that the company already has its own code of conduct in place.
The province’s Code of Conduct, however, has not been integrated into two mandatory training courses, according to Carver. “What we want to do is to modernize [the courses] to address the concerns of the industry and as well as the concerns of the public,” he said. “There shouldn’t be any confusion out there about what the expectations are.”