History of private security

Private security in Quebec : a constantly evolving industry!

Public safety and private security : complimenting one another through close association

The early days of public safety

Beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries, big cities like Quebec and Montreal used citizen patrols, watchmen and agents to maintain law and order. However, the citizen-based system was unable to cope with increasing and more varied needs for public safety. After the Patriots’ rebellion in 1837, the Government of Quebec created the first public police service, replaced in 1843 by municipal police services in Quebec and Montreal.

The emergence of the private security sector

The Quebec Provincial Police was established in 1870. This service became the forerunner for today’s Sûreté du Québec. The State steadily invested in security while at the same time, on a parallel track, private security services developed to serve the needs of private business, especially banks and railroads. It was during this era the role of private detectives was established. Between 1890 and 1900, police services frequently used private detective services to conduct their investigations.

During the early part of the 20th century, large private security firms were established throughout Quebec and other Canadian provinces and territories. There was a clear division emerging between the security of people, property and assets provided by private security agencies and the public safety and law enforcement provided by police services.

Private security : increasing needs

Certain factors, such as the hiring of private investigators by the police and former military personnel joining private security firms, helped boost both the expansion of the role and the level of expertise held by the private security sector. At the same time, the transport of valuables and merchandise, the monitoring of construction sites for the railways, and the management of strikes and other labour disputes provided the private security industry with the opportunity for substantial growth in both the private and public sectors. This new reality prompted the legislature to repeal the 1941 Act governing the actions of private detectives and replace it with the Act on investigation or security agencies in 1962. For the first time, the specialty of security guarding was incorporated into the Act.

In the decades since the 1962 Act came into full force, the private security industry developed rapidly while becoming fully focused on contemporary socioeconomic needs. The rapid evolution was due to an increased volume of business, the use of advanced technologies for both products and services, the media’s coverage of criminal activity, and an increased demand for security. In 1996, the process began to adopt new legislation which would be more reflective of the new Quebec private security industry and its interaction with the public, public safety agencies, and the government.

The new Law on private security : better support for the industry

When the Law came into force in July 2010, it was welcomed by private security stakeholders convinced it would have a positive impact on protection for the public and provide recognition of the importance the sector plays in creating meaningful employment opportunities in Quebec.

In 1996, the process began to adopt new legislation governing the private security industry after repeated demands from industry members who found the existing legislation outdated and confusing. 
A committee made up of representatives from private industry and the public sector examined four essential aspects of the private security industry: the scope of current legislation; private/public dynamics; requirements and mechanisms for qualification in the industry; and the image, unity and integrity of the industry. In 2000, a first report was sent to the Minister who, in turn, tabled a white paper titled ‘Private Security: Partner in Internal Security’ in the National Assembly in 2003.

In 2004, after the white paper did not achieve consensus, the Minister established five committees charged with examining training, ethics, regulation, identifying stakeholders, and financing options to drive legislative reform in the private security sector.

Each of the committees submitted a report to the Minister in September of 2004. The content of the Private Security Act was largely inspired by the reports of those committees. The government’s objectives for the new law (Bill No 88) were for it to:

  • Reinforce public protection

  • Expand the scope of activities to six activities

  • Support and supervise current practices in each of the specialties

  • Contribute to the improvement of private security practices

  • Modernize the legislation


The Private Security Act was sanctioned on June 14, 2006, was enacted in three steps and became fully enforceable on July 22, 2010.

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