Staff at the AIDS Committee of Durham Region (ACDR) say there is a growing concern when it comes to tactics used by a private security company that has been hired by a number of landlords to patrol various properties in downtown Oshawa.
Video captured by staff at the organization on March 18 shows an alleged dispute between CDN Protection Ltd. president Andrew Clarke and a homeless person outside of the facility.
Clarke is seen saying “leave the property now,” numerous times as his dog continuously barks at the individual. Less than a minute into the video, the security guard pulls out what appears to be a baton.
Adrian Betts, the executive director of ACDR, is then heard saying to the individual, “you can go to the hub man, the Mission United hub. Get something to eat.” The hub, located down the street from where the incident took place, provides wrap-around services including food and medical support for the homeless.
However, Clarke is heard saying to Betts, “He’s not permitted to go to the Mission if he’s going to act like that. So please do not inform him to go over there when he can’t.”
He goes on to say he would inform staff at the hub of the incident and provide them with footage taken from his body camera.
Betts says the incident has left workers at ACDR concerned for the safety of individuals and their access to services.
He told Global News prior to the recorded dispute, that when he was heading into work that day, he saw the man calmly sitting outside of ACDR. The social services organization says the man was a client of theirs, and that they share several clients with the Mission United hub.
“That person was there when I arrived at work in the morning. I didn’t ask him to move on. I don’t do that because he’s just taking a break. He wasn’t harming anybody,” he said.
“I understand they have work to do and they have training that they need to be effective in their role, but I don’t think they fully understand the needs of the people that we are here to serve.”
He goes on to say there was an “overreach of authority” on the company’s part. Betts’s colleague, Katie Namek, says the tactics used by security staff at CDN Protection have been an ongoing community concern prior to the March 18 incident.
“I can certainly say that I’ve had many conversations with people who don’t feel comfortable and don’t feel safe accessing that space because of the tactics that are used by security guards. The use of dogs, I mean you’ll see in that video, the threat of violence with a baton,” she said.
“The ongoing issue here is that private security is sort of responsible to determine who is able to access services.”
A spokesperson with the Back Door Mission says “clients are rarely turned away and it would be due to problematic behaviours, and these decisions are made by supervising staff typically in consultation with staff, partners, security, or the person responding to a situation.”
While Betts and Namek say they are not certain of the homeless man’s behaviour prior to the portion of the dispute that was captured on camera, Durham Police confirm they are looking into an incident that involved Clarke and the individual that happened shortly after the taped dispute.
Clarke did not provide Global News with the footage captured on his body camera during the incident.
He said in a statement, “the video posted begins halfway through an interaction, and doesn’t show what started as a friendly and routine interaction with no K9 partner involved.”
He adds security staff, including canine handlers, are trained and certified by third-party organizations prior to patrolling.
“In line with leading the industry in K9 training, we also do so with mental health first aid, trauma-informed de-escalation techniques, managing of resistant behaviour, overdose response training and naloxone application.”
However, the services emphasized by the company on their website include “a collection of incorporated companies providing firearm sales and consulting, training and security services across Ontario.”
Last year, the city of Oshawa hired CDN Protection on a three-month contract to patrol its downtown. Following this decision, Clarke faced scrutiny by community members for past hateful social media posts that had surfaced at the time.
A staff member with Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter’s office tells Global News the mayor has no knowledge of the particular incident.
As for Namek, she says the ACDR has “never had an instance in which our harm reduction workers, our workers here, felt that we couldn’t handle any situation with the community members that access our services.”
“For us, (private security) is completely unnecessary.”