Canadian Security Magazine

Happy birthday, security providers

Neil Sutton   

Features Opinion

To paraphrase a popular marketing tagline from a decade ago, Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is listening.

In early September, the ministry published a letter intended for stakeholders in the province’s private security industry detailing a change to the way security guards and private investigators are able to renew their licences. Under the existing system, licences expire one year from their date of issue. Starting January 30, 2012, licence expiry and renewal will be tied to the holder’s date of birth. On the surface of it, this seems to be a small administrative change, but to the companies and individuals that supply guarding services, the ramifications are huge. In short, it gives everyone a little more breathing room.

I quizzed Dwayne Gulsby, president of Securitas Canada Ltd., about the change and his support for it was palpable.

“I fully applaud and support the registrar for making that move,” he told me in a recent phone conversation. “Ultimately, I think it’s in the best interests of the community. The way it was being done, it was absolutely bottle necking the licensing renewal (process).”

Gulsby estimated that, under the old system, as many as 20 per cent of guards were missing their renewal windows, since a large glut of licences were all expiring simultaneously, taxing the system beyond its limits.

By tying renewals to birthdays, it’s easier to plan ahead and stagger the paperwork required. It’s a system that appears to work well for provincial licence plate renewals, so there’s no reason why the same logic wouldn’t apply to other kinds of licences.

Director and registrar of the private security investigative services branch Lisa Kool has taken her fair share of criticism since taking on this responsibility. I looked through the Canadian Security archives and found an open letter to Kool written by Guy Parent, president of C.I.S. Group of Companies, published just over a year ago in July/August 2010 issue of this magazine.

In the letter, Parent says, “Speaking as someone with more than 30 years in the industry and on behalf of many, our reality is that the Private Security Investigative Services Branch in Ontario is in trouble. Lisa Kool inherited a polished lump of coal and was tasked with making it into a silk purse. Please stop what you’re doing, Lisa, and regroup.”

The letter goes on to itemize problems like licensing periods, use of force mandates and financial burdens placed on guards. Parent wasn’t the first to voice concerns and certainly  won’t be the last. But clearly things are changing. Perhaps not as quickly as everyone would like, but progress is being made.

Gulsby may have been underestimating when he told me that Kool has taken on a “fairly daunting task,” but he’s clearly and acutely aware of the enormity of the role and what it’s going to take to make the security industry happy.

The change in licensing periods to reflect birth dates is a step in the right direction, but I got the impression from Gulsby that the broader trend towards openness and a capacity for change is the more important factor at work.

“She understands that it’s not over at this point. She continues to look at ways of refining the process. She’s very open to suggestions and conversations,” he said. In almost any situation, a sanctioning body that listens to its members is more likely to achieve results, if not universal harmony.

The second part of the memo released by Kool in September outlined “a narrow exemption for out-of-province bodyguards providing bodyguard services to those in the film and television industry, as long as the bodyguard holds a valid licence from another jurisdiction.”

I wrote about this exemption in more detail in a previous column. It was designed for and timed to coincide with the Toronto International Film Festival, when the city is awash with celebrities who bring with them virtual armies, in some cases, of personal protection personnel.

Not everyone was thrilled with the idea of making an exception for the rich and famous, and the move drew the ire of a number of political opponents, but few could argue that it made a great deal of sense.

There will always be critics of the registrar, but by being flexible and listening to the industry, no one should fault her for that.

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