For Ben Bair, serving the community is simply in his blood.

“I come from a service-oriented family,” he explains. “The whole idea is you do what you can to better your community, so whatever I was going to do it was going to be something that brought a positive to the community.”

Bair’s parents are both retired educators. One sister is a lawyer specializing in assisting members of Indigenous communities with Family Law matters, another sister is a Crown prosecutor and his third sister is an occupational therapist. His brother followed their parents into a career in education.

When Bair attended the University of Guelph doing a double-major in history and politics, he expected to pursue a career in education or law. But his time at U of G took him down a different path; specifically a dirt path as he developed a passion for riding and racing mountain bikes. In 1992 he was the founding president of the Guelph Off-Road Bicycling Association (GORBA) which continues to this day.

During university he worked at a bike shop and following graduation he and a co-worker opened their own store in London, On. After Bair’s first child was born he was looking for something more reliable and consistent, plus he still felt the pull to public service. His father first floated the idea of a career in policing.ben bair

“I don’t like to see people taking advantage of other people,” Bair explains of the lure of policing. “It’s a family value to support those that are under-privileged and not treated well.”

He joined the Guelph Police Service in 1998 and this past summer was named a staff sergeant; collecting several Chief’s Commendations for excellence in policing along the way. In 2019 he received an exemplary service medal. He lives in Guelph with his wife and is the father of a daughter and four sons aged 16 to 24.

Bair suggested his mixed-race background might be a factor in wanting to defend the disadvantaged. His Jamaican father came to Guelph in the 1950s to study at U of G and soon after fell in love with a local girl. While he is light-skinned, Bair has too-often felt the personal sting of racism.

“I grew up in a small town where my bi-racial background was well known,” he recalls. “I had the N-word written in dust on the back of my car in high school and as a kid was called some terrible names. I’ve also had people say really racist things in front of me and then when I get mad they say, ‘Sorry man, I didn’t know,’ as if that in some way excuses it.”

Bair’s personal background and two-decade career in policing have collided during the past 16 months since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

“It’s been tough,” he says of being on the job during the resulting calls for police reform – and in some cases outright abolishment -- on both sides of the border. “People are rightfully upset about what they see in the media, but then I come to work and the people I work with are the polar opposite of that media representation.”

Racism exists in every facet of society, Bair says, and it would be naïve to suggest it doesn’t also exist in policing. But allowing a few bad actors to define the entire profession is grossly unfair to those putting themselves on the line every day for the betterment of their community.

“I would just ask that people don’t rush to judgement and remember that we’re human and we’re doing the best we can,” Bair says. “There are terrific police officers in this service who care deeply about this community and are part of this community and in some cases have been here for generations.

“We know the huge majority of the public supports the police and we appreciate that support and like to hear it.”


Behind the Badge will be a monthly series of profiles of Guelph Police Service members