Commissionaires: Changing One Uniform for Another

Shoulder to Shoulder – September 2012:

“Commissionaires actually do a lot more than just pass-control, which is what most veterans would know us for,” says Julie Graveline, who heads up Business Operations for Commissionaires Manitoba.

The former naval officer waited five years before making the short jump from a Canadian Forces (CF) career to a position with Commissionaires.

After a career spent watch-keeping on the bridge and specializing as a Sensor and Weapons Controller in the navy, Graveline decided that when she got back into the workforce she wanted a career with an organization she was familiar with.

She says she found it in Commissionaires. “I was fortunate to win the competition for a management position very early on,” says the 40-something Graveline.

She is one of thousands of commissionaires working out of 16 divisional offices located across Canada.

The not-for- profit organization employs about 20,000 members who work in positions ranging from the well-known security guarding to fingerprinting and identification services, municipal by-law enforcement, management, training, administration, as well as security consulting positions.

Since 1925, Commissionaires has remained committed to its social mandate – to provide meaningful employment for Canada’s veterans.

Currently the organization is ramping up its efforts to bolster its ranks with recent veterans, including many of the regular and reserve force members who served in the 10-year Afghanistan mission.

“I enjoy dealing with clients and learning all about our interesting and diverse sites,” Graveline says. “I get to see a lot of Winnipeg, which is my hometown, as well as the many businesses and organizations that operate in the city. It’s nice to come to work with a mix of people, veterans of all services and non-veterans alike.

The job has a lot of variety. It’s different every day and I like that.” In addition to job variety, the type of employment we offer can vary depending on the applicant.

Doug Briscoe, the Executive Director of the Commissionaires National Office, explains the importance of letting veterans of all ages – including those who are injured – know how Commissionaires can help them.

“Our goal is to make these dynamic men and women aware of the many opportunities that are waiting for them,” he says. “Whether it’s a stepping stone, or a short- or long-term job, we have flexible options available.”

In addition to flexible work opportunities across Canada, some commissionaires are serving the organization abroad. While that may be in a significantly different landscape, there are elements that remain the same, including the level of professionalism expected and the type of uniforms worn.

Indeed, “the first thing one notices is that everyone is in uniform,” says Commissionaire Howard Eames, who is subcontracted to Calgary-based Company, ATCO, in Afghanistan. “It somewhat resembles the type of organized lifestyle that I was used to in the Canadian Forces.”

In his current position, Eames monitors the flow of personnel in the Pass and Permits Department in Kandahar. He checks civilian paperwork and issues visitor badges. “We [also] do an iris scan so that we can tell whether the individual has a history of being a Taliban,” he says.

And from his four-and-a-half years’ experience he’s “learned all about biometrics and the fact that I enjoy doing it. I’ve also developed an interest in learning more.” For him, after a 31-year career in the CF, the transition to Commissionaires was “pretty smooth.” “I still appreciate seeing friends from the past,” he says, “but in Commissionaires you soon establish the camaraderie that you missed after you left the Forces.”

Eames says that the “older” stereotype sometimes associated with Commissionaires shouldn’t be an issue. And though the organization does retain a stable of cherished older veterans, it’s increasingly attracting younger ones. “As time goes on,” he says, “the population of Canada will see more and more elderly [everywhere]. [Some of us] are ‘older,’ but we get the job done.”

Paul Crilly also works in Kandahar. “When I left the CF, I couldn’t find employment because of my injuries,” he says. “I called Commissionaires and expected to be rejected. The dispatcher told me that I was ‘family’ and that there was a job for me if I wanted it.”

While his leg wound healed, Crilly began working for the Victoria, Yukon and the Islands Division, where he was assigned to mobile patrol, visiting hospitals. “Our job was to ensure our patients’ safety and well being. I enjoyed the work so much that even in my off hours I’d visit the patients.”

Crilly later transferred to the Royal British Columbia Museum, where he worked alongside civilian members as well as retired military members. He and Eames are set to return to their Victoria division from Afghanistan in September.

“Commissionaires is a life-line that reaches out and pulls you in and does make you feel like family,” says Crilly. “The organization sets before you goals and dreams of fitting into society with people that can help at any time and who really care for you.”

Commissionaires continues to offer opportunities to veterans and civilians of all ages, from 18 up.

For more information, visit

Read pdf version here.


Commissionaires is a not-for-profit security solutions organization that has been protecting Canadians for 87 years. Their mandate is to provide meaningful employment to veterans of the Canadian Forces and RCMP.

For more information contact [email protected]