Training and Licensing: The Essentials of Private Security

The shooting of two men in at a Toronto McDonalds – allegedly perpetrated by an off-duty security guard – has people asking questions about whether security guards are being properly trained to handle dangerous situations. All security guards in the Province of Ontario are required to be trained and hold a licence to provide private security services. Some security guards – such as armoured car drivers and others who guard money – are permitted to carry guns if they have proper licensing and are trained under the Firearms Act.

The Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005 mandates licensing for security guards and regulates training and testing requirements. We continue to see that without proper training, people can get hurt. The training for security guards has become similar to that of police officers and often the training courses are in fact taught by former police officers. Training can be enhanced through post-secondary courses offered through colleges or universities with Police Foundations programs. Good training courses include crisis management to teach security guards how to de-escalate a bad situation, calm the offenders, and call the police if a fight breaks out or if the situation is getting out of hand. Such training may even require the security officer to know how to properly and safely disarm someone.

We have seen security presence in bars and restaurants increase beyond a typical team of bouncers. Ontario law requires owners and occupiers of land to keep people reasonably safe. Commercial establishments like bars have a higher duty because they serve alcohol. Everyone knows that the dangers associated with intoxication can cause serious injury, but it is important to remember that other activities such as holding concerts, gambling or sporting events may also create risky behaviour leading to harm. Security guards or bouncers should not only be screening people coming in the door, they should be trained to keep the peace and manage dangerous behaviour appropriately. If there are no properly trained (or licensed) security staff, an injury or death at a bar or restaurant may render the venue liable.

We continue to see that without proper training, people can get hurt.

Bars, restaurants and concerts are not the only places where one could be injured due to improper security protection. There could be other areas where occupiers or employers could be found responsible for not having properly trained security. For example, in a hospital setting, particularly one with a psychiatric ward, it is easy to see that there may be occasions when someone could cause injury to themselves or others. The need for proper training to calm an agitated patient, for example, may be imperative to keep not just the patient, but also health care workers or others safe. High-risk environments make it critical to ensure that properly trained security is available.

Security guards and bouncers have become an important adjunct to policing bad behaviour. With the Pan Am Games around the corner, there is no doubt that we will be seeing more security guards in our midst and the hope will be that they are properly trained to ensure all Torontonians and tourists are safe and able to enjoy the events.


Barbara A. MacFarlane is an OTLA Director (Chair of Women’s Trial Lawyers’ Caucus) and a partner and head of the Personal Injury Group at Torkin Manes, LLP.

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Barbara is a partner of Torkin Manes LLP Barristers & Solicitors and head of our Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Groups, with a civil litigation practice focused on catastrophic injury and fatalities. Her cases include wrongful death, motor vehicle accidents, product liability, tavern liability and complex medical negligence cases. Barb is experienced Trial Counsel and has appeared as lead Appellate Counsel in the Ontario Court of Appeal. She regularly represents clients in the Superior Court, at Coroners’ Inquests and various administrative Tribunals. Barb has been involved in many complex litigation matters, including class actions.

Barb is Chair of the Women’s Trial Lawyers Caucus of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.