Amid rising food costs, Superstore is hiring Halifax Regional Police officers to patrol its stores.

Armed guards in the bread aisle

Halifax Regional Police are moonlighting as security at Atlantic Superstores around the city

Being watched by an armed, uniformed police officer while perusing the produce section isn’t the most pleasant experience. But that’s exactly what happened when Kevin Payne and his partner went shopping at the Atlantic Superstore on Braemar Drive this week. “It felt pretty uncomfortable,” he says in an interview with the Coast, “to have a cop kind of just patrolling up and down, watching people.”

“I just don't like the idea of a public police service protecting one of the richest families in the country,” Payne says. Loblaw Companies Ltd., of which Superstore is a subsidiary, is owned by the Weston family—the third-richest family in Canada with an estimated net worth of $7 billion.

Halifax Regional Police officers have been sporadically stationed at Superstores around the city for the past few weeks, particularly at the locations on Braemar Drive, Joseph Howe Drive, Quinpool Road and at Bayers Lake. These cops are basically freelancing for Superstore, picking up security shifts in their off-hours.

“We have an extra duty program that is staffed by officers who volunteer to fill positions while off duty. Business, organizations, public and private events can place requests for officers to conduct policing duties on or near their facilities and are responsible for the associated costs,” writes HRP spokesperson Cst. John MacLeod in an email to the Coast.

“These requests do not draw from our primary policing duties and are only filled if there are officers available from the extra duty program.”

It’s funny that HRP officers have time to work for Superstore, because when Chief Dan Kinsella was begging for a police budget increase earlier this year (which council approved), he said his force was “exhausted” and “overworked.”

click to enlarge Armed guards in the bread aisle
The Coast
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And it’s sad, that in a time when food prices are skyrocketing and more and more Nova Scotians are struggling to afford groceries, the company that saw a nearly 40% increase in profit in the first quarter decides to put armed guards in the bread aisle.

Even more concerning is that there’s no transparency about the HRP’s contract with Superstore. The Coast asked the HRP for a copy of the policy or policies that apply to extra duty programs and cops volunteering in uniform off-duty. Cst. MacLeod told us in an email: "Please reach out to our access to information office in relation to your request for policies." On that website it says: "specific requests for policies or procedures will be released only with the approval of the responsible Superintendent," and requests can take up to 30 days to process.

Galen Weston's rent-a-cops are sworn HRP officers with guns and there is no public information, and no timely access to public information about the relationship between Superstore and the HRP.

“It shows what police are really here for,” Payne says. “People are starting to learn and become more aware of the fact that the ultimate goal of police is really to protect private property and capital and profits. They're not really here to serve and protect human beings and the well being of people in our society.”

With files from Matt Stickland

About The Author

Kaija Jussinoja

Kaija Jussinoja is a news reporter at The Coast, where she covers the stories that make Halifax the weird and wonderful place we call home. She is originally from North Vancouver, BC and graduated from the University of King’s College in 2022. Jussinoja joined The Coast in May 2022 after interning at The Chronicle...

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