by Victor Lachance
On Sunday, September 19, 2021, the front page of the Toronto Star featured an article about local opposition to the proposed Kemptville prison. In it our MPP Steve Clark was quoted as follows, “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.”
Could Steve Clark be more disrespectful and insulting to the residents of North Grenville and Kemptville? Could he be more uncaring and dismissive of his constituents, so many of whom have tried to obtain information that the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Steve Clark have not provided and, in fact, are hiding from the public? You could not have better proof of our MPP’s total disregard for the legitimate concerns of our community. Is this not further proof that the proposed location of the prison in Kemptville is nothing but a political decision that has no merit?
Because of this lack of transparency, local opposition groups have and continue to work with members of the community to gather and disseminate information for North Grenville residents to assess the merit of the proposed prison. None of the research, evidence, and expertise disseminated to the community has been countered by the provincial government. As has been noted before, based on what we know, a new prison in Ontario should not go in anyone’s backyard, much less a small town like Kemptville.
But, apparently, we’re afraid of the unknown. Well, Steve Clark is partly right. There is much too much that is unknown, because the province and our MPP won’t provide the information the community has been seeking for over a year. For example, in response to an Access to Information request, the provincial government withheld 135 pages out of a total of 145 pages relevant to the question of why the province chose Kemptville as the proposed location of an unnecessary and unwanted prison.
According to our MPP, our community is being stirred up by some unnamed outsiders. Really? This is a classic red herring argument to deflect from the fact that the people of North Grenville can think for themselves and work together to stop this bad idea from going forward. Has he not received the hundreds of emails and online questions from the residents of North Grenville, his own constituents?
There are, in fact, many valid reasons and concerns for the significant local opposition to the proposed prison in Kemptville. It is no surprise that many local residents, having learned about the failings of our corrections and judicial systems through content matter experts, are speaking out on this needless plan to expand the province’s capacity to incarcerate people. It is no surprise that many local residents, understanding the critical importance of preserving our farmland, are speaking out against destroying existing buildings, and paving over a critical piece of our agricultural and farming heritage, to build a prison. It is no surprise that local residents, aware of the tragic history of the country’s Indigenous peoples and the systemic racism in our justice and corrections systems, are saying there is a better way.
Knowledge is power, and apparently Mr. Clark resents the idea that residents of North Grenville possess it. The prison is a crucial local issue for the future of Kemptville, but it is an equally important provincial one, given the estimated quarter of a billion dollars required to build an unnecessary prison.
Back in 1961, John F. Kennedy referenced Edmund Burke when he said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.” And it was as far back as 1867 that John Stuart Mill said that bad ideas need nothing more to succeed than that people look on and do nothing. Does this describe the situation we face today concerning the prison and our MPP’s repeated dismissal and disrespect of our community? The prison is a bad idea, and our community’s concerns should be foremost in our MPP’s mind. Luckily, we have plenty of time to come together and convince the provincial government that this community’s vision for Kemptville and North Grenville does not include or fit with a prison.