by Patricia Habberjam
Community Engagement Session Via Zoom, 26 November, 2020
I joined the above meeting, at 5pm, to learn more about this new proposed Correctional Complex. Who comes up with these names? Everyone knows it will be called the Kemptville Jail by the locals. The Ministry of the Solicitor General was the host for the evening.
When I signed in, I was allowed to activate my camera, but not my mic. Fair enough, no interruptions, but we could see each other, those who chose to be seen. I have done a few Zoom meetings these last few months, but always with a smaller number of people. Half way through the session, my video was turned off. Anyone who knows me knows that I show my feelings on my face, and it must have been too much for the Chair. To be fair, he turned off everyone’s cameras. I found this action sinister, someone was controlling my participation. I also didn’t like not being able to see all the people who attended this meeting. Why was I on Zoom, if not to see everyone? If this meeting had been held in ‘normal times’, would they have asked us to cover our faces, as well as staying silent?
At the start of the meeting, the Chair spent a large amount of time explaining how we were to be respectful of each other; no interruptions when someone was speaking, no bad language, etc. We would have two minutes to put our questions at the end of the presentation. This was strictly adhered to and all questions were answered, although not always satisfactorily. I thought everyone was respectful.
The presentation was long and covered all aspects of the future prison; a lot of time was spent showing us pictures of how lovely and welcoming the inside would be. This is a prison, right? It made me think of all the homeless people, and others in our area, who are not living in anything like the luxury depicted in these pictures, even the ‘before’ photos, I thought, looked ok. I was not that interested in seeing or hearing about the inside of the prison: I wanted to know why Kemptville was chosen as the site for this future correctional facility.
Eventually, a few written questions were read out by the Chair and duly answered. I asked a question, which I didn’t think was taken very seriously, about the closeness to Ottawa and the fact that the Southern Ontarians have no idea of how this area is administered, evidenced by the original name ‘The Greater Ottawa Correctional Complex’. They claimed to know exactly where Ottawa is located, but then went on to explain that the future prison would be working in close proximity with the Ottawa facility. As far as being advantageous to North Grenville, I see no benefits for us.
The Complex will be high tech. Court appearances will be via video as well; family visits will be encouraged to occur over the internet, which would solve any lack of local transportation. Drones were mentioned as surveillance assistants, and I got the feeling that living anywhere near the future prison would be interesting from a technical point of view.
A few people asked the Question: ‘Why was the fact the prison is to be built in our community kept quiet until it was a done deal?’ The answer was always the same, they didn’t want any one muscling in on the deal and buying up the land (how could they, it is government owned?), or developers coming along and making money! I think it is obvious from the touchy way the Correctional Complex Team handled the meeting that the real reason is they didn’t want an outcry from the residents before they could present us with a fait accompli. My feeling from the whole three hours was that it is a done deal; no one really cares what any of us thinks.
The project will probably begin building 2023/4. Before that, consultations and measurement of land will take place, request for tenders from local builders could result in short term employment in the building industry in this area. In the long term, if any local work is forthcoming, it will be in the service sector. No hope was held out that well-paying jobs would be available to the present members of this community. It was suggested that prison workers may choose to relocate to the local area. It is expected that the prison will be up and running by 2027.
This is my opinion, I do not live in close proximity to the proposed complex, but I have lived in towns with prisons. The prisons were there long before I was, thus I moved there knowing what to expect. I did not move to North Grenville 11 years ago expecting this rural area to be the home of a new High Tech Prison! This complex will definitely change the feel of the place, perhaps Ottawa will get even larger!