Council was told security hired to prevent encampments wouldn’t make arrests. One councillor is questioning why city documents say otherwise.
In an effort to end tent camps, Toronto’s City Council voted unanimously on July 22 to require that private security guards hired by the city to prevent public protest camps have court orders to make an arrest on the spot of potential crime. The vote followed years of reports of people sleeping beneath overhanging trees in parks and on city street corners, and a growing body of evidence that such encampments violate Toronto’s bylaws and violate the rights of those living in them.
“We are talking about freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of peaceful assembly,” Councillor Adam Vaughan said at council. “To have private security acting as enforcement officers … I am extremely concerned.”
“I am not entirely confident that the security service we have access to is the service we have access to,” Councillor Janet Davis added, noting the city and security service have not been able to meet.
“That’s not a sustainable situation if we’re going to have freedom of assembly,” said Vaughan.
According to security documents obtained by the Star through access to information, the city has hired security guards since 2011 to prevent overnight camps and public protest camps in parks, on city sidewalks, and in neighbourhoods. The security guards are contracted by the mayor and council, and are paid by the taxpayers they are meant to serve.
But according to a person familiar with the city’s contract with security guards hired to prevent peaceful encampments, the city doesn’t always disclose to the public that the city has contracted with private security guards to provide policing services.
In fact, that person said, during negotiations between the city and security guards, the city failed to reveal the contract, and the guard was unaware of it at the time he was hired. When asked if it was common practice in other municipalities for a contract to remain undisclosed once the contract is signed, and the guard hired at the city is not told about it until after he/she is hired, the person replied, “we certainly don’t have what you would call an ‘open and transparent’ process as far as we are concerned.”
The guard who spoke to the Star called for the city to