In my October 6th post entitled “Photography in Public Places – Your Rights as a Photographer” I made mention of a run-in I had with a security guard at one of Toronto’s landmark office towers on September 30th. I was on the public sidewalk, taking some upward view photos of the building when a security guard approached and told me to stop taking pictures immediately. Apparently, by his calculation, I was on private property and was no allowed to take photos from that location. Being on a public sidewalk, I was well within my rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be taking photographs.
In my October 6th article I chose not to mention the building in question, as I had attempted to contact them via e-mail to question my experience and their policies – I wanted to give them ample opportunity to review my complaint and respond accordingly. I directed my e-mail to the building’s General Manager, Senior Property Manager, and Security Operations Manager – definitely the right people to review and respond to my inquiry. I sent the e-mail on October 1st. Now, 25 days later, I have yet to receive any response. I think 25 days is more than ample time to review and respond to my inquiry, so I can only assume that Scotia Plaza has consciously chosen to ignore my inquiry.
Did Scotia Plaza have the right to attempt to stop me from taking photos? Absolutely not. I was standing on the Bay Street sidewalk just north of King Street where the altercation took place.
I have included below the e-mail I sent Scotia Plaza on October 1st that they have chosen to ignore. I can only assume that their choice to ignore my inquiry suggests that they condone (or promote) the actions of the security guard I encountered, and that they recognize that they cannot legally defend their position.
“On Sunday, September 30th, I was taking photographs in Downtown Toronto. At approximately 6:00PM I was on the east sidewalk of Bay Street, between King Street and Adelaide Street taking various photographs, including of the Bank of Nova Scotia building. While there I was approached by one of your security guards.
The guard told me to stop taking pictures. I politely asked why, and he told me it was not allowed. I again asked why, and was told that I was on private property and that photography is not permitted. I commented that I was on a public sidewalk and that I have the right to photograph in public places. He again stated that I was on private property and directed me to cross the street. I asked why I had to cross the street, and he again claimed that I was on private property and was not welcome there. I told him that the Bay Street sidewalk is public property and that I would not cross the street. He told me that he was giving me a ‘first warning’, and that if I didn’t stop taking photos and leave the area immediately he would escalate the issue. By this point I was frustrated with the confrontation and decided to leave – not because of any wrongdoing, but simply because I didn’t want the altercation to escalate.
I have taken photographs throughout Downtown Toronto (including on the day in question) including at Commerce Court, Royal Bank Plaza, First Canadian Place, TD Centre, Royal York, and in-and-around Brookfield Place. Never before have I been approached and questioned by building security. In fact, Commerce Court security on Sunday said ‘Hello’ to me as I was photographing that complex.
The actions of your security guard were inappropriate, dishonest, illegal, and intimidating. The Bay Street sidewalk is public property, and there are no provisions in Canada’s Criminal Code (or any Provincial law) preventing photography in public spaces. I certainly hope the actions of the security guard who confronted me were entirely his own, and were not at the direction of Scotia Plaza.
I am a law-abiding citizen who enjoys photography. I have the right to take photographs in public places under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and I will continue to exercise that right. I may photograph Scotia Plaza again in the future and, should a similar confrontation with Scotia Plaza Security occur, I will personally escalate the issue to Toronto Police Services. I will not be intimidated, or accused of any wrongdoing, by your (or any) security personnel while partaking in completely legal activity.
I ask that you review the scope of my experience on Sunday relative to any policies you may have, and that you review the legal rights of photographers with your security personnel. I trust that Scotia Plaza has established ethical security policies and a code of conduct for its security personnel within the confines of Canadian (and Ontario) law, and that you are not intentionally trying to supplant an individuals’ rights or freedoms when at, in, or around Scotia Plaza.
I look forward to your review of my experience and your reply.