Following Steve Clark’s comments reported in the Toronto Star on September 18, in regard to the proposed prison in Kemptville that “there was understandably a bit of ‘fear of the unknown’ and ‘fear of change’ and these fears were stoked by a few small but vocal special interest groups from outside the region”, the Times asked his office for clarification. The following reply was received from MPP Clark’s Executive Assistant, Doug Brewer:
“Minister Clark was likely referring to the people from outside of North Grenville who made presentations at the various public meetings and consultations on a wide range of topics not specifically related to North Grenville including prison reform or the abolition of correctional services in general (against human caging). These special interest groups were often contradictory – some saying that these types of prisoners could be safely let out into the community, while others suggested that they would be really dangerous to have in the community, even while incarcerated. Some other falsehoods were also perpetuated, such as claims that this type of facility is ‘always located in towns of over 100,000 people’ or that it will ‘kill the local property values’. The town of Milton was about 7,000 people in 1972 when their correctional centre was announced and building began, opening in 1974. I suggest you look at their current population and real estate values to validate that argument. The Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee and St. Lawrence Valley Correctional Centre are other examples. It’s interesting to note that the expansion of the St. Lawrence Valley Correctional Centre in Brockville, which was also announced as part of this Eastern Ontario Correctional Bundle Announcement (and is located around the corner from MPP Clark’s home), has been met positively by the local community for whom this type of centre is not an unknown and none of the perpetuated falsehoods would gain traction.
Contrary to the Toronto Star story, there have been multiple public meetings and consultations. Many questions have been asked and answered, and asked and answered again. And that’s entirely appropriate – people will have questions about a new facility in their community. But if the answers don’t fit one of the narratives that are being driven, they don’t always accept the answer. And, as is often the case when the provincial government decides to use land that it owns, there is no shortage of ideas from other people about how the land could have been used for some other purpose. When someone builds a house they’re often confronted with similar opposition from a neighbour who wishes that piece of land remained vacant, or turned into a park. But homes need to be built, and sadly, we also need modern, upgraded correctional facilities.
MPP Clark and the North Grenville Council have been working with the Solicitor General’s Office to ensure that the Kemptville community will be well served by the location of the new facility and by the Kemptville community’s use of the surplus lands which are currently underutilised. Working in collaboration often creates the best end results and MPP Clark will continue to push to achieve the best deal for North Grenville working with the Office of the Solicitor General and North Grenville Council.