The pandemic has had an impact on many things, including the ability to launch an effective protest, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the Citizens Against the Proposed Prison, and the Jail Opposition Group. The two groups held a virtual planning meeting last week which was open to the community, to discuss various ideas for community action that would send a clear message to government officials that there is a strong opposition to the proposed prison development.
There were 33 participants who attended the online forum.
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited the options available for launching a physical protest because of social distancing requirements and the order to stay at home. But, the group has been busy in the background designing lawn signs and information flyers to be mailed out to residents.
Organizers of the forum, including Victor Lachance and Kirk Albert, remain hopeful that a large demonstration of community opposition to the prison will effect change and could reverse Premier Doug Ford’s decision to build the prison in Kemptville. They noted other protests which were effective, including the public backlash over the idea of blue license plates for Ontario.
The two groups have been organizing for the past nine months since the announcement was made and say that attempts to reach officials have been unsuccessful.
Stephen Harris said he was unable to reach government officials to express his opposition. “This government is unable to do anything right, when we get right down to it.” He said perhaps government officials at the provincial level thought that Kemptville was too small of a community to be of any concern to them.
He was advocating for a strong political campaign to target the provincial Conservative government and suggested obstructing highway traffic to, “get the attention of the national press,” and have the message of opposition resonate at Queen’s Park.
After an online poll to select the appropriate signs with clear messaging, the group voted to have a non-partisan sign so as to not alienate people on a political basis and ensure that the opposition group reflected the entire community. They decided not to refer to the prison as the Ford/Clark prison on the sign.
Don Sherritt said that Mayor and Council were likely hearing from residents who supported the prison and those who were opposed and it put them in a difficult position to respond. He felt that many of the local residents who expressed support for the prison were provided with mis-information about the development when it was made months ago, and were under the impression the prison would create good paying local jobs. He said CAPP and JOG need to launch an information campaign to educate those people who support the prison, and correct the myth about jobs being available.
Stephen Harris said, the only jobs available to locals would be relegated to grass cutting and cleaning. “The staff will be moved down from Ottawa,” he said.
The groups have started an online petition at change.org to collect signatures to send to the legislature, voicing their opposition. They will be launching a social media campaign, delivering flyers by mail, and sending out lawn signs. They fundraised for this campaign using the GoFundMe platform on social media and managed to raise close to $3200.