Lack of institutional safety officers ‘another broken promise’: NDP
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Legislation created in 2021 to have special security guards armed with batons, handcuffs and pepper spray patrolling Manitoba hospitals and universities hasn’t come to pass.
There are no institutional safety officers in place anywhere in the province, Manitoba Justice said in response to a freedom of information request made by the NDP.
“The (Progressive Conservatives) have broken yet another promise,” NDP justice critic Matt Wiebe told the Manitoba Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
Enabling legislation came into force in October 2021 because designated health-care facilities and post-secondary institutions “face unique security concerns due to size of facility and number of people,” then-justice minister Cameron Friesen said at the time.
The special security guards would have the training, equipment and authority to restrain someone behaving violently, for example.
“Our government is proud to take action to enhance the authority, training and skills of these safety officers to increase safety and security for people and property,” the then-justice minister said in a government news release.
The lack of action 18 months later was raised during question period by Wiebe, MLA for Concordia. “Can the minister explain why he’s failed to establish even one institutional safety officer?”
Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen didn’t answer the question. Instead, he pointed to the creation community safety officers in municipalities around the province to deliver crime prevention programs, connect persons in need with appropriate social services and, if authorized to do so, assist local police in non-criminal matters.
Institutional safety officers, however, were to be licensed security guards with enhanced training and permitted to carry handcuffs, defensive batons, aerosol weapons and wear distinctive uniforms.
Only security guards at health-care facilities and post-secondary institutions could be trained as institutional safety officers, the legislation says.
At the time the legislation came into force, Shared Health said it was “considering the necessary training and skills required by institutional safety officers based on the specific role and duties they must fulfill within Manitoba health-care facilities, in addition to the training and skills required by employed or contracted security staff.”
Shared Health was not prepared to comment late Thursday.
The union representing security guards at Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface Hospital and Seven Oaks General Hospital in Winnipeg said its members are ready and willing to take the training.
“We don’t know why they’re not rolling out the program to them,” said CUPE Local 204 president Debbie Boissonneault.
She said the union has raised the issue several times with Shared Health and the need for security guards to be able to respond to situations, but requests for the training and equipment “have fallen on deaf ears.”
The union representing Manitoba nurses said it’s an “absolute mystery as to why this has not yet happened.”
“We absolutely support the hiring of (institutional safety officers) — particularly in response to the situation at Seven Oaks,” Manitoba Nurses Union spokesperson Brandi Johnson said Thursday, referring to the October 2021 stabbing attack on a nursing supervisor inside the city hospital.
“Definitely, we have concerns about safety – every day and in all areas of the system.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.