AN OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER DOUG FORD

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Mr Premier,

In these uncertain times, I consider it appropriate to say that I think you are doing a fairly good job at controlling the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak within our province – keep up the good work.

My point today, however, is to focus on a different, but important, issue – that being the decision to build more correctional facilities, rather than addressing justice reform in the Province of Ontario. It is generally known that our current system of dealing with those that run afoul of the law ofttimes falls short of meeting full Charter rights. This is evidenced in the numbers of people being held in custody and waiting too long for bail setting, or those awaiting remand hearings. Add to these the number of cases being dismissed, either due to having been adjourned far too long, or having exceeded a reasonable period within the Charter of Rights for the prosecution process to take place. Why? Because the justice system is outdated, overloaded, and lacks the resources to make it work efficiently, not necessarily that it lacks in the number of Correctional facilities. Clearly, the focus should be on updating and repairing the Ontario Justice System! This cannot be achieved by throwing more financial resources at building new correctional facilities rather than where the problems are within the heart of the system itself!

To commit a half a billion scarce dollars to this process by building new and remodeling old facilities, in my humble opinion, is a wanton waste of tax payers money! That money would be much better committed to helping our overtaxed health system, where it is badly needed, and to restoring the integrity of our Justice system itself.

The proposal to build a new “Correctional Facility” in Kemptville within North Grenville will only serve to exacerbate the existing problems. During my 35 year career as a police officer, I have experienced first hand that undue incarceration neither works, nor serves to reform or rehabilitate anyone. The Covid-19 pandemic lock downs have given people their first-hand experience of how hard it can be to be forced to remain sequestered within the family home for a lengthy period of time. Being put in a small concrete cell behind locked steel-bar doors, with bare minimum furnishings and no privacy or television, is much more intimidating. Incarceration itself is a punishment and, as such, acts as an impediment for chances at rehabilitation. Detainment while awaiting hearing before a court should be as minimal as possible, and that is not always happening under the existing Ontario Justice system.

When the Dept of Justice team came (virtually) to Kemptville, following their dropping the news on us that they wanted to build a new “Correctional Facility” here, they stated it was a “fait accompli”! Notwithstanding that, they now wanted to start to “consult” with the residents. Their presentation lacked in details, and did not provide much useful information on the whole process, particularly in regard to site choice, requirements, procedures, etc. It was stated that one of the criteria being met was that the Province already owned the land. However, there was no mention that the site is on unceded territory, to which the Algonquin Nation claim title. No reasons were given as to why previous demands from the Municipality or other interested parties for other uses of the land went unanswered. Vague verbal promises were made for additional aid (no dollar amounts) to the Municipality to help compensate for the added pressures that the jail facility would impose on the existing infrastructure, our small hospital, and other limited resources within the community. A suggestion was also made that the new facility would somewhat resemble a “hospital” in appearance – interesting, but I have never seen a hospital with coiled barbed wire protruding above its roof line!

In closing, I urge you Mr Premier to: 1. cancel this project and to redirect the funding to focus on repairing and improving the Justice System in Ontario, and 2. to assure tax payers that their hard earned money, paid in taxes, is being committed to better use by a responsible government that really does care about its citizens.

Rodger Parnell,
Kemptville

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