December 14, 2018

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Union, minister argue over HSC security

<p>Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU president shared the union's legal position that HSC guards aren't designated as peace officers and don't have the power to arrest or to use force.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU president shared the union's legal position that HSC guards aren't designated as peace officers and don't have the power to arrest or to use force.

Do Health Sciences Centre security guards have the authority to detain someone who is high on meth and running amok in the hospital?

It depends on who you ask.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Cameron Friesen dismissed concerns expressed by the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union that HSC security guards don't have the authority, training or equipment to deal with violent patients who have drug-induced psychosis.

"Security personnel are highly trained, especially at HSC," he told reporters earlier. “All security officers in these facilities have the ability, have the training, and are licensed under the Criminal Code to intervene.”

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Do Health Sciences Centre security guards have the authority to detain someone who is high on meth and running amok in the hospital?

It depends on who you ask.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Cameron Friesen dismissed concerns expressed by the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union that HSC security guards don't have the authority, training or equipment to deal with violent patients who have drug-induced psychosis.

"Security personnel are highly trained, especially at HSC," he told reporters earlier. "All security officers in these facilities have the ability, have the training, and are licensed under the Criminal Code to intervene."

On Thursday, the MGEU held a news conference to dispute the minister's statement. The union shared a copy of a legal opinion it had obtained that says HSC guards aren't designated as peace officers and don't have the power to arrest or to use force.

Without the peace officer designation, the union says that guards at HSC are leaving themselves open to charges and legal action if they use force to get someone under control. The union says it has happened with security officers at HSC who were punished for intervening in an effort to keep people safe. At Thursday's news conference, union president Michelle Gawronsky offered two examples.

<p>Mantioba Health Minister Cameron Friesen: "Security personnel are highly trained, especially at HSC."</p>

JESSICA BOTELHO-URBANSKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mantioba Health Minister Cameron Friesen: "Security personnel are highly trained, especially at HSC."

"One of our officers physically intervened to stop a suicide and he was dismissed," she said. Another case involved two officers who were criminally charged with excessive use of force, even though the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority determined it wasn't an excessive use of force, she said.

The security guards paid financially and personally, said Gawronsky who couldn't provide details and noted it happened a number of years ago.

The union says the province knows about the problem with HSC guards lacking the authority they need to do their jobs and that Manitoba Justice officials are in discussions with the WRHA to grant special constable status to HSC security.

Manitoba's health minister, meanwhile, is sticking to his guns.

"Security officers at HSC Winnipeg have the ability, the training and the authority to intervene when individuals are acting violently," Friesen said in a statement issued late Thursday. "This fact has not changed, nor will it change regardless of whether security officers have the designation of special constable or qualified person once amendments to the Mental Health Act are proclaimed," the emailed statement said.

"We appreciate the work performed by security officers in sometimes challenging circumstances and take their concerns seriously," Friesen's missive said.

"We will continue to monitor the appropriateness and scope of training security officers at HSC Winnipeg receive to emerging challenges, such as the growing drug crisis. As always, we would encourage the MGEU to seek constructive dialogue by engaging with government directly to articulate their concerns about workplace conditions rather than through the media."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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