The Coalition Against the Proposed Prison provides a collective platform for the range of voices expressing concern and/or opposition to the proposed plan to build the “Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex” in Kemptville, Ontario.
Consider the following:
Costs: what taxpayers will pay for the proposed prison
Every prison town in Ontario has to pay for “police service calls” related to their prison. Don Sherritt is a former Chair of the North Grenville Police Services Board. He has been able to determine that by comparing Kemptville’s tax base with other prison towns, we can anticipate $250,000 to $300,000 in OPP service calls for the proposed prison, equating to an approximately 2.5% tax increase year after year. Even worse, the province chose the Kemptville site because of its potential for expansion, meaning there will be more OPP service calls in the future.
Kemptville already needed an expansion of its wastewater treatment, and the proposed prison would have an even bigger increase in the size and cost of our wastewater treatment. Media reports note that between $10 million and $13 million, or up to 33% of the total projected $39.4 million cost of the planned expansion, will be attributable to the needs of the proposed Kemptville prison. Even if the province contributes to that extra $10 - $13 million extra cost (to date, there is no formal agreement on this), there will still be an increased cost to NG taxpayers to service and maintain a larger capacity than we would have otherwise needed.
There are still unanswered questions about the proposed prison’s infrastructure requirements that will be added to our taxes. Will the construction of the prison require any upsizing or upgrading of our existing sanitary sewers? The proposed prison will also need a lot of water. How will that affect Kemptville’s existing water aquifer? The province won’t tell us – they’re refusing to release any information on the “due diligence” work they’ve done on this. And what happens when the prison is expanded? It’ll be too late by then to complain about all the increased taxes that come with a prison
Building on a Unique Parcel of Farmland
The land targeted for the new prison was formerly part of the Kemptville Agricultural School established in 1917. Agricultural Research Institute on Ontario (ARIO) continues to own 182 acres of the lands comprising the former Kemptville Agricultural School (circa 1917) having sold approximately 633 acres to the Municipality of North Grenville in 2018 for the development of an Education and Community Centre, now referred to as the Kemptville Campus. The land still in ARIO’s possession is a stone’s throw from the campus and includes prime agricultural land, comprising mainly class 2 and 3 soils; it sits prominently at the south entrance to the small town of Kemptville. A large section of the property north of College Street will be paved over to build the proposed Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex, which will also result in the destruction of the numerous serviceable farm and heritage buildings on the site.
UPDATE: Please note that Minister Thompson chose to disregard these requests and the many requests from Kemptville residents and on June 17, 2022, CAPP received notice that the land was transferred to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (now known as the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery) in March 2022 where it will stay until it is transferred to the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
Lack of Transparency and Meaningful Consultation
On August 27, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced plans to build the “Greater Ottawa Correction Complex" later renamed the "Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex” in Kemptville, Ontario. This announcement was made without any prior notice or consultation with the Municipality of North Grenville and the residents it serves. Since that time, the provincial government has asserted its right to “sole discretion” in determining the location of new provincial corrections facilities, despite the opposition of residents. Publicly available information has been slow to emerge, resulting in confusing and at times contradictory communications.
Access to Information Requests
Several people have recently submitted Freedom of Information requests to the province to obtain the results of due diligence activities that must be completed prior to developing the targeted farmland. The results to date have been very concerning given that multiple requests for information have been declined by the provincial government:
- Land Survey /Topographic Plan - Access denied, currently under appeal
- Geotechnical/Environmental Drilling - Access denied
- Natural Heritage Survey - Access denied, currently under appeal
- Designated Substance Surveys - Access denied, currently under appeal
- Archeological Investigation - No records found according to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
- Class environmental assessment - Access denied, currently under appeal
- Planning/Site Servicing/Transportation Reporting - Access denied, currently under appeal
In November 2020 an access to information request was made to the Ontario government under the Province's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The request was for access to copies of all documentation related to the site selection for the new correctional facility to be located in Kemptville. The release package was received on June 4, 2021, and comprised only 10 pages of visible content from a total of 145 pages of documents related to the request, with the remainder withheld. Even the small amount of content released reveals concerning information and critical facts that the Ministry of the Solicitor General failed to provide to the community. Kemptville failed to meet many of the government's own criteria for site selection. Where information is provided on short-listed sites, Kemptville is shown as the only one that fails to meet the "preferred distance of less than 40 kms from the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre". As the Ottawa Citizen reported in an Oct 16, 2021 article, "Situated 60 kilometres away from the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, and a 54-minute drive from the city core, Kemptville is more than twice the distance of the other four properties the province considered." The documents show that Kemptville failed to meet selection criteria that had removed other potential sites from contention, including lack of public transit, municipal servicing to the site and the existence of natural heritage constraints and hazards on the property.
Selection criteria included "room for expansion", something SolGen failed to acknowledge when asked directly at the October 2020 stakeholders meeting. The documents state, "The parcel at 178 acres, meets the ministry's size constraints with potential future expansion if necessary".
In an effort to access the remaining pages, an appeal has been submitted.
Elections Ontario Complaint
On October 6, 2021, CAPP and JOG received an email from Elections Ontario advising us that Minister Steve Clark had filed a complaint with them alleging that our activities constituted unregistered third-party political advertising. In that email, Elections Ontario advised us that it had determined our activities did not meet the definition of political advertising and that the complaint had been closed.
The Loss of North Grenville’s Vision for the Future
Under the tagline, “Green and Growing”, North Grenville’s municipal government has been highlighting its focus on sustainable and positive economic development, while actively promoting North Grenville’s blend of rural and small-town charm, its quality of life, and natural heritage. Exciting initiatives include the development of a tourism strategy, plans to create a vibrant and thriving gathering place in historical downtown Kemptville, and robust strategies to enhance active transportation opportunities for bikers and walkers.
Listen to local resident, Kirk Albert, discuss a positive vision for Kemptville and North Grenville and the detrimental effects the proposed correctional facility will have on realizing that vision, including the economic development opportunities lost, and the community aspirations unrealized, should the provincial government proceed with this ill-conceived plan.
Concerns about Negative Environmental Impacts
Given the provincial government's recent track record on environmental issues, there is a risk that improper assessments will be completed and inadequate mitigation strategies adopted thus failing to properly offset the long-term environmental effects of such a large infrastructure project. In December of 2020, the government passed legislation that reduces the power of Conservation Authorities (CAs) across Ontario. The legislation included the requirement that, in the case of a Minister's Zoning Order (MZO) being issued, the governing CA must issue a permit approving the development, even if it has not been demonstrated that downstream flooding won't occur. The MZO also bypasses the need for local approval of a project, including public consultation. This government has issued over 35 MZOs in 2020 alone, while a total of 70 were issued in the previous 30 years. Even if the government does not issue an MZO, the legislation passed in December introduced other means for the government to bypass the development criteria established by our local CA and have the Minister of Natural Resources issue a permit in place of the CA. All of these legislative changes increase the risk for downstream flooding and other negative environmental impacts.
Failure to Demonstrate Economic Benefits
The provincial government has touted significant economic benefits as the primary selling feature of the proposed correctional facility. The Ministry of the Solicitor General has failed to put forward any evidence to support this assertion and the public has not been informed of any economic analyses that have been undertaken. The government's own stakeholder and community engagement sessions failed to provide any evidence of substantive economic benefits. One thing we do know from the stakeholder session is that the government anticipates that most of the positions will be filled by existing OCDC staff. The government's messaging also contradicts the independent academic research into the economic impacts of correctional facilities in small communities.
Infrastructure and community pressures and increased tax burden
Residents continue to express concern regarding the potential negative impacts on already stressed local water and sewage treatment systems, as well as local roads, should this facility be constructed. On June 10th, 2021, Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Richardson stated that the province will take on the cost of servicing and infrastructure associated with the proposed prison. It is not clear if she is referring to only one-time costs versus ongoing costs. Given the history of downloading provincial costs to municipalities, it remains a concern. More recently, the province has cancelled contracts with municipalities for the recovery of policing costs associated with correctional institutions. All evidence points to the fact that this will result in higher costs to be borne by North Grenville taxpayers once the prison is operational. Media reports of inadequate health care within provincial prisons support concerns that the facility will lead to increased pressure on our local hospital, including longer wait times and decreased bed availability.
Inadequate prisoner supports
Our lack of a public transit system will be a significant barrier for families wishing to visit prisoners and for prisoners needing to safely return to their home communities. Kemptville can never replicate the extensive services available in large urban centers and lacks the range of social, cultural and religious supports needed for a diverse and often racialized prisoner population.
A Broken Bail and Remand System
At any given time, about 65-70% of the 8,000 prisoners in Ontario institutions are on remand, meaning they are in pretrial and awaiting their day in court. The Ontario Government has stated for years that many of those prisoners could be released on bail without harm. The government has promised and tried repeatedly to reduce Ontario's remand prisoner population. During the COVID pandemic, to limit the spread of disease, the Ontario government cut its jail population by 31%, largely through shrinking the number of people imprisoned on remand, and this has had no harmful effect on communities.
Rather than building a new jail at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, and over the objections of Kemptville residents, all we need to do is hold the government to its promise to keep the remand population down.
Expanding Jail Capacity in Eastern Ontario
Building more jails means building more capacity to incarcerate people. The public already knows that the correctional system is broken. We continue to incarcerate Indigenous and Black men and women at a rate significantly disproportionate to their population numbers. We jail non-violent offenders, and people living with mental health and/or drug use issues. Sadly, the very populations who are disproportionately incarcerated across this province - racialized and lower-income communities - are the same people who will continue to suffer the most serious consequences of the current pandemic – likely for years to come.
The provincial government has the opportunity now to make better choices about how to spend public funds at this critical juncture, including rethinking how best to modernize and improve our correctional and judicial systems without adding more costly jail cells to the mix.
Kemptville’s Future Forever Tied to a Failed Correctional System
Provincial and national corrections-related headlines speak to the tragedies within prisons on a regular basis, including prisoner suicides, violence, and inhumane conditions. Jobs in the corrections system are generally considered stressful and unhealthy. Given the available land, there is no guarantee the proposed facility will not be expanded later.