Do Security Guards Have Arrest Powers in Canada?

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This article provides general information only. It is not meant as legal advice. For clarification in your specific circumstances, contact your supervisor or a lawyer.

In Canada, while a security guard has arrest powers it is not as clear-cut as it is for police officers. However, you as a security guard do have certain legal powers under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Although they are hired to protect property and maintain safety, while security guards have arrest powers, their authority is subject to strict regulations and legislation.

A security guard detains a suspect with handcuffs in a public area

When discussing the arrest powers of a security guard, it is important to differentiate between a “citizen's arrest” and those performed by law enforcement officials.

In specific situations involving a criminal offence, a security guard acts as any other citizen would. This means that they are entitled to detain an individual if they are actively witnessing a criminal act or immediately following one, to be handed over to the police promptly.

Security guards must operate within legal boundaries to avoid violating an individual's rights or facing potential legal consequences themselves.

The role of a security guard is vital for ensuring safety, but their actions must fall within the framework established by the Criminal Code of Canada.

Any arrest made by a security guard must be carefully justified and executed, considering the gravity of the offence involved and the immediate need to protect the public or property.

As you navigate public and private spaces, recognizing the delineation between the responsibilities of security guards and police officers contributes to a better understanding of your rights and the function of security professionals within Canadian law.

Legal Authority and Jurisdiction of Security Guards

A security guard detains a suspect in a Canadian jurisdiction, displaying that security guards have arrest powers

In Canada, your authority as a security guard is specified by law, particularly under section 494 of the Criminal Code, and is subject to the regulations set forth by the government.

Understanding the extent of this authority and the jurisdiction in which you can exercise it is crucial for your effective and lawful operation.

Legal Powers of a Security Guard

Security guards have arrest powers but do not have the same powers as police officers but are afforded certain rights to act under specific circumstances.

According to section 494 of the Criminal Code of Canada, you, as a security guard, have the right to arrest a person:

  • Without a warrant if you find them committing a criminal act on or in relation to the property you are assigned to protect.
  • If you believe on reasonable grounds that a criminal offence has been committed and the suspect is being freshly pursued by persons with lawful authority.

However, your actions must comply with all applicable regulations and must respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is essential to be licensed under your province's or territory's guidelines to act as a security guard and enforce these powers legally.

What is a Security Guard's Jurisdiction?

Your jurisdiction as a security guard primarily includes the private property or designated area you are hired to protect.

Your intervention rights are generally:

  • Limited to the property boundaries of your employment.
  • Extended to immediate pursuit if an individual is witnessed committing a crime within your jurisdiction.

You do not possess peace officer status but may cooperate with law enforcement as required.

When performing your duties, it's important to follow the guidelines provided by both the employer and the relevant government authority that has issued your security guard license.

Security Guards Have Arrest Powers

Security guards detaining a suspect with handcuffs in a public area

In Canada, security guards have arrest powers under certain conditions, much like any citizen. These conditions are defined by the Criminal Code and hinge on the severity of the offence and the situation at hand.

When Security Guards Can Make an Arrest

Security guards in Canada can make an arrest when they catch someone committing an indictable offence on or in relation to the property they are protecting.

For an arrest to be lawful:

  • The criminal offence must be happening in their presence.
  • There must be a legitimate reason to believe that it is not feasible for a peace officer to make the arrest.

In the event of a crime in progress or if a suspect is caught immediately after committing a crime, a security guard can arrest the individual to prevent them from escaping or continuing the offence.

When Security Guards Cannot Make an Arrest

Security guards are not authorized to make an arrest under the following circumstances:

  • If the offence is not being committed in their presence or is a summary conviction offence, which is less serious than an indictable offence.
  • If they lack direct evidence of the offence occurring.
  • For the sole purpose of investigation or questioning.

Furthermore, security guards do not have the same power as police officers to execute arrests for outstanding warrants or based solely on suspicion of criminal activity.

Citizen’s Arrest and Security Guards

The concept of citizen’s arrest is applicable to security guards as well, giving them the power to detain individuals but with constraints.

They must:

  • Use only reasonable force in the process of making an arrest.
  • Call law enforcement immediately after the arrest is made.
  • Not infringe upon the rights of the individual being arrested, including rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It's crucial to note that an individual may not be detained for an undue amount of time, and a security guard may not act in a manner that breaches the peace or infringes upon an individual's rights.

Searching and Detainment

A security guard detains a person with handcuffs in a public area

In Canada, the authority of a security guard to perform searches and detain individuals is limited and regulated. Understanding your rights and their powers is crucial if you encounter such situations.

Does a Security Guard Have the Right to Search You?

Legality: As a rule, security guards do not possess the same rights as police officers to search you.

Your consent is essential for a legally-permissible search, illustrating the importance of your privacy rights.

A security guard must have either your express permission or strong, specific reasons related to their duty to protect property to justify a search.

Can a Security Guard Search You?

Circumstances: If you are on private property, such as a mall or a nightclub, the security may have policies that you implicitly agree to by entering the premises—this can include bag checks.

However, a security guard cannot conduct a search on you just by the virtue of their position; your lawful possession of your personal effects is a protected right.

Search Types:

  • Consented searches: If you agree to a search, this is permissible.
  • Incidental searches: If detaining you for a suspected offence (e.g., shoplifting), a search may occur to ensure safety.

Do You Have to Go with a Security Guard if They Ask You?

A security guard may detain you if they have found you committing a criminal act or believe you were just involved in one, falling under a citizen’s arrest.

However, consent is key.

You don’t have to go with a security guard unless they are making a citizen’s arrest without warrant and you have been directly implicated in a criminal activity.

If detained:

  • Ask on what grounds you are being held.
  • Determine if the detainment is related to specific accusations.
  • You have the right to know if you are being arrested or simply held for further inquiry.

Use of Force and Restraint

A security guard detains a suspect with proper force and restraint, following Canadian law

In the context of security work in Canada, you can use force under specific circumstances, and it's crucial that such force is reasonable and appropriate to the situation at hand.

When Can Security Guards Use Force?

Security guards in Canada may use force when necessary to protect themselves or others from harm, prevent a crime, or carry out a lawful arrest.

The key principles that guide the use of force are legality, necessity, and proportionality.

  • Legality: You must have a legal right to use force in a given situation.
  • Necessity: The use of force must be for a legitimate purpose such as self-defence or to restrain someone who is committing a crime.
  • Proportionality: The amount of force used must be reasonable and not excessive in relation to the threat posed.

Reasonable Force: The Criminal Code of Canada allows you to use force that is reasonable and proportional to the threat you're facing.

It’s imperative to assess the situation carefully:

  • The threat level posed by the individual
  • The individual’s behavior and words
  • The presence of weapons

Tools for Restraint: If de-escalation techniques are unsuccessful, you might need to use tools such as batons or handcuffs to restrain an individual safely.

These tools should be used in accordance with the following:

  • Batons should only be used when less invasive methods are not sufficient to control the situation, and the guard has received proper training in their use.
  • Handcuffs may be employed to restrain an individual, but it's critical to ensure the person's safety and monitor their well-being continuously once restrained.

Rights and Responsibilities

Rights and Responsibilities of a Security Guard


  • You have the right to arrest a person under certain conditions. Specifically, you can make an arrest when you witness a criminal act on or in relation to the property you are employed to protect.
  • You are authorized to use reasonable force if necessary while making an arrest. However, you must immediately hand over the arrested individual to the police.


  • You must clearly communicate with the suspect, your employer, and law enforcement during any incident. This includes providing a comprehensive report of the situation.
  • You are responsible for understanding the limits of your authority. You cannot enforce laws in the same manner as the police.
  • You hold the duty to act within the confines of your training. This is especially important concerning the use of force and detaining suspects.


  • Your employer must provide you with the necessary training regarding your rights and responsibilities. This includes the legal aspects of detainment and arrest.
  • They also carry liability for your actions, within the scope of your employment. This makes proper training and policy-setting critical.


  • Missteps in your role can result in legal repercussions for both you and your employer. This emphasizes the importance of adhering to legal protocols and company policies.

Understanding Criminal Offences

In Canada, criminal offences are classified into three categories: indictable offences, summary conviction offences, and those that fall under dual procedure. Each category has its own legal process and potential penalties.

Distinctions Between Indictable, Summary Conviction, and Dual Procedure Offences

Indictable Offences are serious crimes that carry more severe penalties. When you are charged with an indictable offence, such as murder, your case has the potential to be handled by a higher court. The Crown will proceed by way of an indictment. Here are some specific examples of indictable offences:

  • Murder
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery

Summary Conviction Offences are less serious crimes with maximum penalties that are often lighter than those for indictable offences. These offences include less serious instances of theft or property damage. Trials for summary conviction offences tend to be quicker and are typically held in provincial courts without a jury.

Dual Procedure Offences are a unique category because they can be prosecuted either as indictable or summary offences, depending on the circumstances and discretion of the Crown. This means that a charge like theft or assault could result in either a more formal court process or a simplified one, based on factors such as the severity of the incident and previous convictions.

CategorySeverityExample CrimesCourt Process
Indictable OffencesHighMurder, Aggravated Sexual AssaultHigher courts, indictment
Summary ConvictionLowLess serious theft, property damageProvincial courts
Dual ProcedureVariesTheft, AssaultCrown's discretion

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for grasping how the Canadian legal system approaches criminal offences and prosecutes those accused of crimes.

Security Guards vs Police Officers

In Canada, security guards and police officers serve distinct roles with different levels of authority. Understanding the scope and limits of their powers can help you navigate interactions with both.

Security Guards Do Not Have the Same Authority as Police

Security guards are employed to protect property, maintain peace, and enforce the regulations of the entity that hires them. They do not, however, have the full authority of a police officer. Here are some specifics:

  • Jurisdiction: While police officers have authority that typically spans an entire city or jurisdiction, security guards’ authority is limited to the property they are assigned to protect.
  • Arrest Powers: Unlike police officers, security guards cannot charge individuals with offences. They can only perform a citizen's arrest under certain conditions, such as when they are witnessing a criminal offence on the premises they are tasked with protecting.
  • Use of Force: Security guards must adhere to strict guidelines regarding the use of force. It should be proportional and applied only when necessary, while police officers have wider discretion in determining the appropriate level of force, within the confines of the law.
  • Training and Oversight: Police officers undergo rigorous training programs and are subject to higher standards of accountability. Security guards receive training focused on their specific roles and are generally overseen by their employer rather than a public body.

By comprehending these differences, you can better understand the roles and limitations the next time you interact with a security guard or a police officer.

Training and Equipment

In Canada, your journey as a security guard will begin with mandatory training and may include licensure to carry certain types of equipment. It's imperative to understand that each province has its own regulatory body and sets of requirements that can influence the training and equipment standards for security guards.

Standard Training for Security Guards

To work as a security guard in Canada, you must complete a provincially approved security guard training program, which typically includes a comprehensive curriculum to ensure you are well-prepared for your duties. This training covers various aspects of the profession, such as:

  • Legal studies: Understanding the Canadian legal system, your legal powers as a security guard, and the limits to those powers.
  • Communications: Both verbal and written skills to effectively report incidents and interact with the public.
  • Emergency response: Basic first aid and crisis management techniques to respond to emergencies promptly and effectively.
  • Customer service: Handling everyday interactions with a professional demeanour.

Keep in mind that the length and specific content of these programs may vary across different provinces.

Use and Carrying of Firearms and Other Equipment

Your role as a security guard may not automatically grant you the authority to carry firearms. Should your position necessitate the use of a firearm, you must obtain the necessary firearms license under the Canadian Firearms Act. Here's a quick overview of the requirements and other equipment you might be authorized to use:

  • Firearms: Obtaining a firearms license involves a background check, a safety course, and passing a written and practical exam. Armed security guards are an exception rather than the norm in Canada and are generally only used in high-risk scenarios.
  • Other Equipment: While firearms are rare, you may be equipped with batons, handcuffs, or other non-lethal equipment. Training and experience determine your ability to carry and use these tools effectively, and their use must align with legal and ethical standards.

Table of Permitted Equipment for Security Guards in Canada:

EquipmentTraining RequiredAdditional License NeededAllowed Use
HandcuffsYesNoControlled restraint
BatonYesNoDefensive tactics
FirearmYesYes, under Firearms ActOnly if authorized for specific duties

Your success and the safety of others depend on your understanding of the training and equipment regulations. Ensure you continually update your skills and knowledge to stay compliant with provincial laws and industry best practices.

Privacy and Legal Considerations

In Canada, security guards have certain powers, including arresting a person under specific circumstances. However, you should be aware of privacy and legal considerations that govern such actions.

  • Lawful Authority: A security guard may arrest someone who they have reasonable grounds to believe has committed, or is in the act of committing a criminal activity. It's critical to understand that this authority is subject to stringent legal frameworks to prevent misuse.
  • Privacy Rights: You have a right to privacy, which is protected under Canadian law. Any action taken by a security guard must respect this right, ensuring that no unlawful invasion of privacy occurs during surveillance or an arrest.
  • Criminal Activity: If you're witnessing or suspecting criminal activity, a security guard can intervene within the bounds of their training and provincial legislation. The guard must consider the implications of these actions on your privacy and legal rights.
  • Confidential Information: Throughout their duties, security guards may come across confidential information. They are obligated to protect your confidentiality and privacy, disclosing such information only when absolutely necessary and to the proper authorities.

Frequently Asked Questions

When you encounter security guards, it's important to understand they have certain legal powers regarding arrests. Each question below addresses specific rights and limitations that security guards in Canada abide by.

What are the legal authorities granted to security guards for making an arrest in Canada?

In Canada, security guards have the authority to make a citizen's arrest. This power is granted under the Criminal Code of Canada which allows them to arrest individuals they catch committing a criminal offense on or about the property they are responsible for protecting.

In what situations is a security guard allowed to use force during an arrest in Canada?

Security guards are allowed to use reasonable force when necessary to carry out a lawful arrest. The degree of force must be appropriate to the situation and justifiable under Canadian law, ensuring it is not excessive based on the circumstances of the arrest.

Is it permissible for a security guard to detain individuals suspected of trespassing in Canada?

Yes, security guards in Canada can detain individuals suspected of trespassing. They must have reasonable grounds to believe an offence is being committed on the premises they are guarding and must act within the scope of their duties and the law.

What are the requirements for a security guard to identify themselves before conducting an arrest in Canada?

Security guards must identify themselves and explain the reason for the arrest. It's essential for the guard to inform the individual that they are being detained and on what grounds, thus ensuring the detainee understands the situation clearly.

Can security guards in Canada carry and use handcuffs when detaining or arresting a person?

Yes, security guards in Canada are permitted to carry and use handcuffs, but only if they are trained in their safe and proper use. Handcuffs can be employed to restrain an individual during a lawful arrest or detainment to prevent harm or escape.

Under which conditions are security guards in Ontario authorized to carry firearms while on duty?

In Ontario, security guards can carry firearms only if they are licensed to do so under the Firearms Act and are specifically employed by an agency licensed to have armed guards.

They must also complete the required training and certification to handle firearms safely and legally.

Last Updated on May 12, 2024

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