Complaints against Security Guards (5:VI)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on June 30, 2021.|
Complaints against licensed security guards can be filed with the Registrar of Security Programs Division, Ministry of Justice. Complaints can relate to the licensing of a security business or security employee, about the conduct or behaviour of a security employee, or about the use of equipment. Filing a complaint is free. Complaining against an unlicensed guard should be done directly to the employer. Most security guards in BC are now required to be licensed under the Security Services Act, SBC 2007, c 30 [SSA].
B. Filing the Complaint
Complaints must be made in writing within one year of the incident. Complaint forms can be obtained by contacting the Ministry or online.
Ministry of Justice - Policing and Security Branch, Security Programs Division
Once a complaint has been filed, the Registrar will determine whether the matter is within its jurisdiction. If it is, then an investigator will be assigned. The complainant will be notified of the investigation by letter. Complaints can result in a warning notice, a violation ticket, or reconsideration of the officer’s licence status.
The Registrar may decide not to investigate a complaint if there has been more than one year of time between when the complaints knew about the facts and when the Registrar receives the complaint (SSA, s 34(2)(a)). Section 34(2) also enumerates other factors that may lead the Registrar to refuse to investigate a complaint.
Like police, licensed and unlicensed security guards can be sued civilly.
NOTE: The BC Court of Appeal recently reversed a human rights decision by the BC Supreme Court regarding alleged discriminatory conduct by security guards on the basis of social condition. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) filed a complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal against the Downtown Ambassadors, a program for private security guards hired by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association to patrol public spaces, alleging that the Ambassadors had engaged in a discriminatory program intended to remove members of the homeless population from public spaces in Downtown Vancouver. As social condition is not a protected ground under the BC Human Rights Code, VANDU presented statistical information to demonstrate that Indigenous persons and persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the homeless population and submitted that the Ambassadors’ actions were therefore discriminatory on the basis of race, colour, ancestry, and physical and mental disability, contrary to section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code.
NOTE: In Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users v. British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, 2018 BCCA 132, rev'g 2016 BCSC 534, the BC Court of Appeal restored the BC Human Rights Tribunal’s initial dismissal of VANDU’s claim, finding that the statistical correlation provided by VANDU was insufficient to establish a causal link between membership in a protected group under the BC Human Rights Code (namely Indigenous persons and persons with disabilities) and the adverse treatment by the Downtown Ambassadors against the homeless population. The Court of Appeal’s decision reversed the previous decision of the BC Supreme Court, which had quashed the Tribunal’s dismissal on the grounds that the Tribunal had used too high a standard in finding a human rights violation, and that the statistical information presented by VANDU was sufficient to show discrimination on the prohibited grounds of race and disability.
BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner published a report in May 2020 on adding social condition as an enumerated ground. Please see the report for further information: https://bchumanrights.ca/publications/social-condition/.
NOTE: Individuals should be cautioned that this complaint process may not achieve satisfactory results. The Security Programs Division is limited in its ability to successfully review the conduct of security guards, both because of statutory limitations to its powers and budget constraints.
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