by Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan
One of the greatest assets that North Grenville has is its residents. Sure, we have wonderful natural assets, forests, and rivers, meadows, and farm fields, we have big city conveniences and small town coffee shops and many diverse businesses.
By far the beating heart of our caring community are the people, the humans. We are very proud that we are a diverse and an inclusive community. We have lined the streets to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. We have painted a crosswalk in rainbow colours, raised the Pride flag, and held a Pride parade. We have welcomed refugee families from war torn countries, and helped them make a home here to rebuild their lives. We welcome a large number of people with various disabilities as our neighbours.
Most recently, we have invested in learning about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its Calls for Action. We fly the Every Child Matters Flag year round at the Municipal Centre. We are also very aware that our humans have a range of different social and spiritual needs. We seek to ensure adequate and affordable housing. We embrace, and welcome, and look out for each other. That has become even more evident during the pandemic, when you could feel the love in our municipality. No matter what your age, sexual orientation, ability, creed, or colour, North Grenville offers you freedom and safety.
Soon, we will host another group of human beings in our community, those who have found themselves in conflict with the law. When the Eastern Ontario Correctional Centre (EOCC) opens in Kemptville, there will also be a group of human beings who work at the facility in a variety of occupations. Some of them may already live here among us, some may commute here, and some will eventually move here. There will be visitors, family and friends of the inmates who are in the correctional facility.
Many of the inmates find themselves in conflict because of social circumstances, poverty, mental illness, addiction, and a history of domestic abuse. Some simply got mixed up with the wrong crowd and ended up in trouble with the law. I have, personally, had a friend who was in that situation. Parole wasn’t enough to turn his life around, and he ended up in a prison. After serving his time, he got his life back on track, got a skilled trade and a decent job, married and raised a family.
I also have friends who have been Registered Nurses working in the Correctional Facility in Ottawa. Many have worked there for over 20 years. For them, it has been a rewarding career; but they often expressed concern about the overcrowding and lack of mental health and addiction supports for the inmates.
I ran for Council because I believe that where we live is a social determinant of our health, and I wanted to advocate for a safe and healthy community. My position regarding the EOCC is based on the same belief. Where, and how, inmates serve their time is a determinant of how they live when released. There is no doubt that the justice system needs improvement in the processes and programming.
As your Councillor, I commit to advocating for an improved justice system, where the facility treats the inmates as humans. They should have single accommodations, where they are safe and have appropriate health care and programing to treat and manage mental illness, addictions, and which provides opportunities to turn their lives around.
I also commit to advocate for my fellow taxpayers in North Grenville. The Solicitor General’s office must pay for the costs associated with this facility’s construction and operation, including the policing and security. I am a taxpayer, like most of you, and believe that the province must maintain responsibility for this institution. I do not want the costs downloaded to us. I support municipal involvement in the site plans. I also support the transfer of surplus lands to the Municipality of North Grenville for agricultural and community use.
The “Heads in Beds” tax, which the province pays to municipalities in lieu of property taxes for institutions like universities, hospitals, and correctional facilities, must be reviewed and increased. The per capita amount has not been increased since the 1980’s. We all know that that is way out of date.
I believe that there will be financial benefits to our municipality in the form of more jobs, more business opportunities, and more spending at our existing businesses.
Let’s accept the EOCC in North Grenville, along with all the humans who will come with it. As a fellow resident I say, why not here? We are a community of Caring Humans.