I Was Arrested At The Airport With A Pistol In My Carry-On

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The RCMP officers ran toward me and put me under arrest. Was my life over, with this arrest that involved a pistol in my carry-on luggage at the Toronto international airport? The Air Canada security had discovered the hidden pistol in gym bag used as carry-on luggage as I went through their security.

In the end, I would end up congratulating the female security officer for her good work, and while obviously I could see some fear and nervousness in her face, she handled the situation of finding my pistol and reacting to that, quite well. How could it be that I, with a one way ticket out of the country, would end up congratulating the security officer who was responsible for my arrest?

It’s a bit of a long story, or a short story depending on what you want to know.

For almost two years, while going to college full time, I also needed a job – a job that would pay me enough to pay my tuition fees, purchase the books I needed to buy, provide me with enough money for the transportation costs and maintenance of my old 1974 Datsun 710 that I owned – and in 1983, it would not be easy to attend college and pay for all the expenses without seeking out government grants and loans.

But I did not want anything to do with loans or grants. “Somehow, I can do this, I told myself.”

I did do it, but it took me three years to do a two year program. Many of my classmates had discussed how they managed to get a grant, or qualify for an loan – and under my own circumstances, I guess it was very possible I too could have found a way to get money from the government, or some government funded entity, to end up with a grant or a loan to go to college.

The idea of it though, was always repugnant to me. The idea of filling out papers, to obtain government funding for my education was abhorrent to me and I wanted to do it on my own.

And that choice ended up with many experiences, including one that included being arrested by the RCMP at the airport in Toronto, for trying to get through Air Canada security with a pistol.

Making Choices

As a result of my own choice to not rely on government loans or assistance, or beg my parents for money that they did not have, I had to make other choices in regard to some kind of an income. I was amazingly, based on my poor high school marks, accepted to the “Law & Security Administration” program at Humber College. In my first year, the program was held at the “north campus,” in north Rexdale; close enough that it did not justify moving out from my parent’s house in Richmond Hill, but far enough that I needed my own transportation to get there. I also was requested by my mother to pay room and board.

At that time, the drive from Richmond Hill to the North Humber Campus drive was about 45 minutes, across some rural roads, and required personal transportation, and the ability to pay for not just the fuel, but the car itself and maintenance. I managed to make a deal with my dad, when he purchased a newer vehicle, to buy his old 1974 Datsun 710 from him – rusted as it was, for a $300.00, and then promise to pay for all future repairs and maintenance, and learn to fix things as much as I could to save me money.

The RCMP Airport Police Arrest Me

There is of course, a background story to this, but on that day, I can recall what it felt like to have the Air Canada security person inspect my airline ticket, search my Adidas gym bag, and find the pistol hidden in the bottom of the bag. When I entered the airport with only an Adidas bag and a pistol inside along with some other personal stuff packed into the bag, and a $20.00 bill in my wallet, would I be able to make it through the security?

At 20 years old, I was a bit nervous myself, but in fact there was some relief that the RCMP had actually arrested me. Two officers rushed into the Air Canada security area, but there was no big fight. But to everyone else around, it looked very scary as it was quite obvious I had been carrying a pistol in my bag. I was advised I was under arrest, handcuffed, and lead away after they police officers seized the pistol and the rest of my carry-on luggage.

My CGRP Experience

For about a year and a half, I had been working for a company called Community Guardian Resource Protection (CGRP), a company that was originally set up by former Deputy Police Chief of Toronto Joe Thurston. It was a sister company to Community Guardian Co. Lt., which had a sole contract to provide community based policing services originally to the Ontario Housing Corporation (OHC) in Toronto, later to be re-organized as the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority (MTHA).

But in the contract arrangements with OHC, Thurston’s Community Guardian Co. was forbidden to bid on any other contracts, although he knew he had very qualified human resources. So he created the sister company, CGRP.

CGRP would go on to have security and consulting contracts even with the RCMP and at times, employees from Community Guardian would be seconded to CGRP. My father was one of those and for a time, assisted and worked closely with the RCMP in creating security systems for the National Museums that were being planned in Ottawa.

Joe Thurston would eventually sell Community Guardian Resource Protection Co. to a man named Peter Kay, who was highly linked to the Eaton Family in the Toronto area. Kay would take the company into providing Executive Security services but with a special branch that provided security for Air Canada at would end up becoming named as Pearson International Airport, the same year I was arrested there.

I started out working as a dispatcher at their head office located at 15A Toronto Street. I would work full-time hours from either 3pm to 11pm or 11pm to 7am. No matter what shift I was working, it was tough – for my 3pm shift, I’d often have to miss classes at the Rexdale Humber campus, and rush through traffic to get to work. I ended up getting a lot of speeding tickets as I rushed down the Don Valley Parkway to try to get to work on time.

For my midnight shifts, I’d leave at 7AM and then rush as fast as I could no matter the traffic up to the Rexdale campus. Although it was exhausting at times, and some of my friends in my College program would come wake me up as I napped in the student lounge, I tried to make it to every class I could. I was lucky in my first year in that I had been exempted from the entire first year English class after taking an exam before the course began. That gave me an extra hour or so of downtime at College where I could grab some sleep in the form of a nap on a comfortable student lounge chair.

Because I worked at the Head Office of CGRP, I got to meet regularly with the company management, and they invited me take on other overtime shifts if I wanted working at the Coca-Cola head office, at that time located at 42 Overlea Boulevard in Thorncliffe Park, Toronto, as well as the Goodyear Tire Head Office, located in Etobicoke.

There were also other places I worked; needless to say that my first two years of college involved many hours of work – 40 hours per week plus overtime on weekends which really helped me be independent of government grants. But it also meant I did not complete some of the college courses and ended up doing a two year course in three years.

John Kay Asks A Favour

While Peter Kay tried to build CGRP into a mostly executive security company (before selling to another company), his son John, who I was told had returned from Toronto after trying to have an acting career in California, was in charge of a division of the company I didn’t even know at the time that existed – providing security guard services to Air Canada.

I had known about the executive security (and some industrial services for both Coca-Cola and Goodyear) but had no idea about this division.

But one day, John came to me at the Head Office and told me he needed to run a “test” on the Air Canada security. It was not a demand – he told me I should expect to be arrested if the test went well. I was free not to “volunteer” (although I would get paid if I agreed).

He told me that he wanted me to pack my gym bag with personal stuff, and he and I would hide a starter pistol in the bag, and then I would go to the airport with a plane ticket he provided me, and go through security to see if the starter pistol would be found and see how well the security did.

The RCMP knew ahead of time that the test was being conducted, as did Air Canada management. But no one else knew. John Kay gave me a crisp 20.00 bill (back then, that was not an insignificant amount of cash) for purchase of fuel for my car to get to the airport, coffees or meals I might need while engaged in this task. In those days, $20.00 could buy several gallons of gasoline, quite a few coffees, a pack of smokes, and a meal for two at a fast food place.

After I was arrested, I was taken to some office, debriefed on how things went, and was advised that I should not talk about the experience to anyone, “for security reasons.”

But I can say that I was arrested after being found with a pistol trying to get through Air Canada airport security in Toronto.

Other CGRP Experiences

I have other experiences working with CGRP including working on some investigation that included bootleg shampoo (which at the time I thought was a bit weird), and also being later fired from the company. The being fired part was both embarrassing and with some merit, but with also some motivations including helping out a manager named Mike Armstrong.

I’ll write about those another time.

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2 thoughts on “I Was Arrested At The Airport With A Pistol In My Carry-On”

  1. Great story you have, Ian! I do doubt muchly it would happen the same way today.

    Heads up – you left out a closing h2 tag in your last paragraph 😉

    1. Hi Jim – thanks for the heads up.. bad habit I have of not proof reading sometimes 🙂

      I would have no clue how they test the abilities of security at airports now. Back then, airlines were responsible for contracting for their own security as far as I can remember and recall. I am not entirely sure when that changed, perhaps after 9/11. Now it’s a Crown Corporation that provides security at all Canadian airports.

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