Five Questions with Commissionaire Cosman

Commissionaire Bob Cosman

Commissionaire Bob Cosman

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer — Bob Cosman is a familiar friendly face at the Y-Jetty security booth who checks IDs and gives motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians access to Dockyard. But upon closer inspection of his credentials, there is much more to Commissionaire Cosman than meets the eye.

He works for the Commissionaires, a national security provider and the largest employer of Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP veterans, with 22,000 employers coast-to-coast.

Cosman’s time in Canada’s military was limited. A successful student and member of the local militia in his hometown of Sussex, N.B., Cosman enrolled in Royal Military College (RMC) Saint-Jean in 1963 after winning a scholarship. He was a member of the RMC track-and-field team until a severe knee injury resulted in five weeks in the hospital and cut his military career short.

He continued his university studies at the University of Ottawa before launching a 25-year career as a parliamentary legal specialist. His work spanned over a decade at the Saskatchewan Legislature and five years at Parliament Hill.

A personal crisis followed his exit from Parliament Hill in the late 1990s, when Cosman found himself unemployed, experiencing homelessness and living out of his van on the streets of downtown Toronto.

1. What contributed to you being able to overcome your experience of homelessness?

If it wasn’t for my parents sending me enough money each month to keep my vehicle licensed and my son, who travelled to Toronto to save me, I could still be experiencing homelessness. I relied on eating scraps from food court trays at Union Station for several months to survive. With the help of my family, things began to change. I eventually attended a job fair downtown, and my recovery began.

Working for Commissionaires has given me a new lease on life, and I learned to appreciate its benefits. Once I hit rock bottom, I realized there were millions of people just like me.

2. What do you like about your job?

Working as a Commissionaire is an ideal retirement job. My shift is only six hours each day, I work afternoons, which allows me to beat the ‘Colwood Crawl’, and I get weekends off. We also have dental benefits, health insurance and paid vacation.

3. What are the most common reasons why members forget their DND identification cards?

Most excuses follow the lines of ‘I left my identification card in my overalls in the shop and forgot to bring it with me’. We are not allowed to accept any excuses. If someone forgets their card, they are only permitted entry if someone escorts them.

4. What is the most fun you have ever had as a Commissionaire?

I worked security shifts at an RCMP Training depot in Saskatchewan for three years. My job included regular building rounds, and I got to drive a Chevy Impala patrol car. When things were quiet, I would practice my extreme driving skills and accident prevention techniques at the driver training track. I had so much fun blasting the radio and seeing what it could do on the testing track.

5. What is the most memorable experience you have had while doing your job?

There had been an alert about a wolf pack roaming the Colwood side of the Base in August 2021. I was doing my rounds in a dimly lit area when I pointed my flashlight toward a hydro pole and noticed what appeared to be a wolf looking at me. I hastened to the safety of the security gatehouse and alerted our security headquarters in Ottawa. A couple of hours later, as the sun rose and daylight came, I came to see that it was a cardboard cutout of a wolf near the building. I wondered if it was a practical joke or someone had been storing the wolf cutout there. To this day, some of my co-workers still teasingly call me ‘wolfy’.

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