City Hall/Queen’s Park Reporter
Special constables and security guards at Queen’s Park may soon be packing heat.
Speaker Dave Levac announced the enhancement of the security presence at Ontario legislature, including some unspecified arming of guards and officers, the Toronto Star and Sun reported last week.
Rick DeFacendis, co-ordinator of Humber’s Police Foundations program, says this is a reasonable measure in light of last year’s parliament shooting in Ottawa.
The Ottawa shooting “left a lot of government institutions wondering what they can do to bolster their security and keep people who work in these buildings and our elected representatives safe,” DeFacendis said.
Niagara West – Glanbrook MPP and former PC leader Tim Hudak says this change of procedure should have happened long ago but is increasingly necessary in light of recent assaults on democratic institutions.
“Certainly the security risks in 2015, as we saw with the attack on parliament, are entirely different than when I was first elected in 1995,” Hudak said.
“Quite frankly, I think the vast majority of Ontarians would be shocked that the officers at the legislative assembly are not currently armed,” he said.
The OPP already provides party leaders with enhanced security during election campaigns, Hudak said.
“I think it’s time now we extend similar protection, not simply to all members of the assembly, but the general public as well,” he said.
“It’s better late than never,” said Hudak.
DeFacendis advocates “a two-pronged approach” to dealing with these types of security issues.
“We have to be able to provide the folks who guard our democratic institutions the tools they need to keep people safe, while at the same time addressing root causes of crime,” said DeFacendis, citing mental illness in particular.
He said another major issue is the lack of oversight against abuses for special constables and private security, particularly compared to cops.
Special constables are generally not armed, nor are they “subjected to the same oversight and activity as sworn police officers,” DeFacendis said.
Paul Copeland, as a lawyer with the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, is generally opposed to giving officers more authority.
But he says arming the guards and constables at Queen’s Park is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
“I don’t know if having a couple of the constables at Queen’s Park armed makes a hell of a lot of difference, as long as their training is equivalent to that of a police officer,” Copeland said.
He suggests Ontarians ought to be more concerned with security excesses like Bill C-51, the Harper government’s new anti-terror legislation.
“I’m much more worried about CSIS and what they’re going to do than some special constable at Queen’s Park,” Copeland said.