An open letter to Premier Doug Ford

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Premier Doug Ford,

My topic concerns the rights of citizens of Canada, in particular those of the Municipality of North Grenville, and more specifically of the town of Kemptville. I also refer to my previous letter to you dated 2021-03-01 on the matter of a new jail to be built here in Kemptville, to which I have not received a response.

The Solicitor General announced to our community a little over a year ago that there would be a correctional facility built here as part of a plan to build a new “state of the art” institution, remodel others, and to revamp the justice system in the Province. Prior to this announcement, there had been no consultation with the Municipality and it came as a complete surprise. The announcement also indicated there would be a follow up with members from the SolGen’s office to meet and consult with the community to address concerns, even though their decision was final and there would be no turning back.

A virtual town hall meeting did take place in the fall of 2020. However, a lot of the concerns raised did not get answered then, nor did promised follow up responses come forth. It was quite adamantly stated at the same time that because the Province already owned the land to be used, they could do what they wanted to with it. Nor would the project be subject to the ordinary construction permits, etc, that regularly apply within the Municipality.

We know there is something wrong with our justice system when people are being held in custody way too long awaiting their day in court and, in some cases, there is no real need to do so. We have seen evidence of the unnecessity of this during the pandemic when the Solicitor General found a way to release approx 25% of the detainees. Therein lies an answer to a large part of the problem, so why build new incarceration facilities when efforts would be better directed to fixing the existing broken justice system?

The decision to build a new correctional facility in Kemptville, without prior consultation, is tantamount to an autocratic form of government that disregards the rights of the citizens of the area and then steamrolls ahead without due regard for the results that decision will create.

A request for release of information under the Access to Information Act relative to this decision was met, albeit with an undue delay. When, finally, the information was provided, a majority of it had been redacted, leaving little information of importance as to how or why the decision to build a correctional facility in Kemptville was reached. It seems the Solicitor General’s office was reluctant to share that information, all with the goal of keeping their process secret and not open to question?

I am sure that I am not alone in stating that, as a result of this decision, I feel my rights as a taxpaying Canadian citizen have been trampled on to give way to a top-down driven project that had to be dumped somewhere, esspecially in a place where there would be minimal resitance from the local populace. Kemptville may be a small town, nonetheless, the residents are no less important than others elsewhere in this Province of Ontario, yourself included Mr Premier. We do not deserve to be treated in such a derisive fashion, as has happened in this case.

We have just seen how the federal Government of Canada has thrown $600M at a federal election, with the result that nothing has changed, we are left with the same situation as before – another minority government. Some would say that this was a bad decision and a waste of taxpayers’ money. By comparison, your government’s decision to throw some $500M (half of which is destined for the new correctional facility here) at an effort to revamp the Ontario justice system, would produce a similar end – nothing would change and we would end up with more lock-up facilities. Would this be a good fiscal decision? Why not put that money into ameliorating the current justice system to alleviate long drawn out processing of court cases and investing in mental and addiction support services as deemed appropriate?

I implore you, Mr. Premier, to revisit your government’s decision to build this new jail, to stop it before more money is poured into it and to re-direct efforts to overhauling the justice system in Ontario to better serve and protect the rights of our citizens. That should be a very high priority in your mandate as Premier.

Rodger Parnell
Kemptville, ON

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