| Jun 18, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - June 11, 2009 United campaign against prison farm closures revisits OttawaBy Julie Druker Representatives of various farm organizations, including the Frontenac Cattleman’s Association, the NFU’s Local 316, the Frontenac Federation of Agriculture and the Sisters of Providence Justice and Peace Office, were back in Ottawa on June 8 in a united national campaign to oppose the closure of six prison farms across the country, two of which are located in Kingston.

Representatives of the groups met with Minister of Public Safety Peter van Loan and MP Scott Reid and made a number of presentations in their ongoing effort to persuade Van Loan to reverse his decision.

The campaign has been successful in that in mid-May Minister Van Loan had agreed to “do nothing” to shut down the Wallace Beef abattoir located at the Pittsburgh Institution near Kingston. Though it was a positive step forward for those in opposition to the closures it did not go far enough. Since that announcement a united national campaign has been organized to immediately have the decision to close the prison farms reversed and to instead invigorate the existing programs. The issue has become larger than most people first thought.

According to Andrea Cumpson, president of the NFU’s Local 316, "This issue unites farmers with individuals and groups involved in social justice, food security, conservation and the environment, labour and inmate rehabilitation."

Diane Dowling, vice president of NFU local 316, attended the Monday meetings in Ottawa where representatives from the three groups appealed to Reid and Van Loan, arguing that the Frontenac Institution is indeed profitable and should be used as a model for the other prison farms across the country. They maintained that the training offered to inmates in indeed beneficial to them finding employment once they are released.

According to Dowling, Van Loan was still adamant about the programs losing $4 million annually and not offering valuable skills to inmates. She stated that the meeting “did not change his mind one bit.”

Campaign representatives have asked to see specific financial accounts proving the programs to be unprofitable, but these requests have been denied.

Campaign representatives also met on Monday with various opposition MPs, including Mark Holland and Wayne Easter among others, who have agreed to support their goal to have the decision for the closures reversed.

The MPs were invited to tour the Kingston institutions to see for themselves that the current programs are beneficial on many levels.

Dowling is hoping to hear back from Minister van Loan’s office in the next week and in the meantime the campaign will continue to move forward. She seems hopeful. “I feel a lot of public support for these programs. Everyone agrees that these programs are a good idea and that it doesn’t make sense for the government to be closing them down.”

For more information visit nfuontario.ca/316

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