Canadian Security Magazine

Mandatory training standards: Where are we now?

By Mike Burgess   

Features Opinion

There is an old saying that comes from the Huna tradition: “For everything in life you must pay attention. To the degree you do not pay attention you pay with pain.” Wise words that jump into the foreground, as I write about this issue.

Patrick Shand died in September 1999 after he was pinned to the ground and handcuffed outside a Loblaws store in Scarborough by two staff members and a security guard, as a result of a shoplifting. A coroner’s inquest made 22 recommendations in April of 2004 that had a ripple effect across this country and resulted in legislation and new standards.

Most Canadian provinces reviewed their respective legislation beginning about 10 years ago, focusing on amendments to licensing, training and equipment standards. So where are we today?  Using the Shand inquest recommendations as a rough guideline, here’s an overview:

Legislation needed to be amended to remove exemptions that existed for “proprietary” or in house security practitioners and members of the Corps of Commissionaires. This appears to have been done, forcing training and licensing onto this group and greatly increasing the numbers of “licensed” security personnel in the process.

The need for urgent change. The coroner’s jury stated “It seems that the issues (impacting the security industry regards to licensing and training) should already be well known and the Ministry should be able to proceed quickly. If there are issues that cannot be resolved in the short term, a phased implementation may be appropriate. It is important that the government act quickly, responsibly and diligently.” Well here we are, more than 10 years after the death of Shand and there are still a number of provinces that do not have ANY mandatory training or testing in place. A background check, pay your fee, pick up your new license and off to work you go.


Mandatory training and a Ministry-dictated curriculum has only been implemented in six of the 10 provinces in Canada. Of those that do have mandatory training, the standards only apply to academics and not necessarily to all the physical skills competencies.

Tiered licensing is beginning to surface but we are still a long way from it being fully implemented across the country. In order for this to happen, it would mean addressing the most contentious part of security licensing: mandatory use of force and specialty skills training and testing. This has not happened in most parts of the country and in those that have attempted it, no two, I have found, are on the same page.

The jury recommended that trainers, and those instructing the trainers, must meet the highest standards relating to subject matter and adult educational techniques. That’s a nice idea, but according to whose standards? There are no national “standards” for use of force training and one only has to speak to a police trainer to find out how different their practices are from place to place, never mind province to province.

Techniques and accepted tactics can be as variable as the people who teach them. In the security industry today, such standards are nearly non-existent. One provincial government official commented to me that they wanted nothing to do with the issue of vetting instructors credentials at all as they felt this was a risk management and due diligence matter best left to the companies themselves to determine. Scary thought if you fully understand the implications of this.

Currently there is no requirement in provinces that have mandatory testing to re-qualify even academically, as long as one’s licence remains valid. Guards can take a Ministry-approved course then move directly into positions such as loss prevention, where they may make arrests on a daily basis. Given that use of force regulations are still pending in some provinces, this may change. However it will, and should, include not just the physical competencies but also the legal academics and decision making aspects of using force to make an arrest.

Issues surrounding uniforms, dogs, identification, record keeping, oversight bodies, portability of licenses, and funding models seem to have been addressed in those provinces that have implemented changes to legislation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the toughest issues, and arguably the main issues that led to the death of Patrick Shand, are yet to be fully addressed in my opinion.

So what’s the impact of this slow progress on the industry? Put yourself into the shoes of a national retail chain store attempting to implement a loss prevention officer training program that meets every province’s and territory’s legislation. I made several calls prior to writing this article and one word came out repeatedly: FRUSTRATING!

In my opinion, we aren’t paying enough attention to these recommendations; it’s been eight years since the Shand inquest and, in some regards, nothing has changed at all. This is painful to me and those I speak to daily within the industry. So much for urgent change.

Mike Burgess is the President of M.D. Burgess And Associates Inc. (

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