G8/G20 security firm fined $45,000

Contemporary Security Canada provided security screening at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and last year's G8/G20 summits in southern Ontario. (CBC)

The private security company awarded a controversial $21-million contract to do checkpoint screening inside the security perimeters at last year's G8 and G20 summits in Ontario has pleaded guilty to doing business without a licence ahead of the event.

A lawyer for Contemporary Security Canada appeared in an Ottawa court Friday morning to plead guilty on behalf of the company and agree to a $45,000 fine.

The Ontario Provincial Police laid a string of charges in March against CSC, including three counts of offering security services while not licensed, two counts of failing to ensure proper uniforms and one charge of hiring an unlicensed guard for the G20 and G8 summits. Many of its top executives were also charged.

The Crown dropped most of those charges — including the more than 20 against company officials — on Friday, telling the court that it was the RCMP that solicited CSC's business and granted the contract without considering bids from other, licensed Ontario security firms.

CSC bid on the lucrative G8/G20 contract at the invitation of the RCMP 2½ months before the summit, even though both the Mounties and the company knew CSC wasn't properly licensed to operate in Ontario under the province's Private Security and Investigative Services Act.

The debacle left Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety scrambling in the weeks leading up to the June 2010 meeting of G8 leaders in Huntsville and G20 countries in Toronto. Bureaucrats had to shut down their regular licensing operations in order to fast track the licences and background checks on CSC and the hundreds of out-of-province guards it brought in to work at the summits.

Ontario even had to make special allowances and waived aspects of the testing and training requirements usually in place for Ontario security guards. Those measures were brought in after numerous inquests found a lack of training contributed to accidental deaths involving security guards arresting citizens.

The company insists it fully apprised the RCMP about its need to get a licence at the time it submitted its bid in April 2010, and that it did obtain the licence before it actually performed the work of X-ray screening, bag checks and operating metal detectors.

The Mounties solicited the bid from CSC, a Vancouver-based joint venture between Canadian security firm Aeroguard and U.S.-based Contemporary International, because it already had expertise as the private security company for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, for which CSC landed two RCMP contracts worth a total of $164 million.

Three other security firms that were already licensed in Ontario say they bid substantially less — between $8 million and $16 million — on the G8/G20 contract than the $21 million CSC was paid, but the RCMP excluded those companies for various reasons. The Mounties said for instance that Garda didn't have adequate X-ray machines, even though it runs the screening at many Canadian airports, and that G4S had unsatisfactory references, despite the fact the company was contracted for previous international summits in London and Pittsburgh.

There were also concerns in Ontario's security sector that the RCMP contract award was influenced by the fact a vice-president of CSC parent company Aeroguard was a 35-year veteran of the Mounties. The RCMP denied any favouritism.

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