Ont. prison guard strike could put prisoners' rights 'in peril'

A union representing Ontario's correctional workers is threatening job action and a criminology and corrections expert says if there was a strike it could put prisoners' rights "in peril" and may leave managers at risk.

See Full Article

A strike could see prisoners locked in their cells without access to communal spaces, classes or potentially doctor's appointments, said Kelly Hannah-Moffat, director of the Centre of Criminology and Socio-legal Studies at the University of Toronto.

Earlier this month, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) rejected a tentative agreement with the province. Followup negotiations failed on Friday prompting the union to ask for a "no board report," meaning a conciliator concludes the two sides aren't ready to agree on a contract. The correctional and probation officers would be in a legal strike position within 17 days of such a report being issued.

Representatives from the Treasury Board and the correctional services ministry did not comment on the union's request for a "no board report." The government issued a news release only saying it was ready to head back to the bargaining table at any time, but declined to answer further questions.

If the union made good on its threat to walk out, managers at the province's 28 correctional facilities, detention centres and jails would take over the guards' work, sending many of those institutions into lockdown, said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

Thomas noted that it would be within the government's authority to order guards back to work, but "there would be consequences" if they did that, he did not elaborate.

Other unionized workers like nurses and maintenance staff would have to continue working during any strike, but Hannah-Moffat said the ratio of staff to employees would become much worse.

"People 1/8would 3/8 be attempting to issue medication and to maintain safety and security in the institution, but because you have a whole segment of people who are not working ... it would be very difficult to move people around the institution in the way they normally would," she said, adding that appointments with psychologists and educational programs may have to be cancelled.

"It puts the rights of individuals in peril, in that they won't be able to access regular services or programming," she said.

She added that managers, who would take over guards' roles in the event of a strike, could also be put at risk.

"You're going to have people doing jobs that they're not necessarily accustomed to doing," she said. "In extreme circumstances, there could be increased risk of incidents occurring, especially if you can't support people in crisis."

The union says the threat of strike is necessary.

Thomas said the workers are concerned about overcrowding and under-staffing in jails. He said those conditions led to an officer in the Thunder Bay jail being taken hostage by prisoners earlier this month.

The officer was taken hostage after a group of prisoners took control over a portion of the jail, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said. They confirmed that the officer and three prisoners were taken to hospital with injuries following the incident, which they called "shocking".

"I'm just stumped as to what it would take for the government to realize they have a problem," Thomas said.

"The vast majority of my members don't want to strike, but I'll tell you now, they will," he added. "And that clock has started tickin'."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • UN food chief: Beirut could run out of bread in 2.5 weeks

    World News CTV News
    TANZANIA, TANZANIA -- The head of the UN food agency said Monday he's "very, very concerned" Lebanon could run out of bread in about 2.5 weeks because 85% of the country's grain comes through Beirut's devastated port -- but he believes an area of the port can be made operational this month. Source
  • Alstom expresses concern over finances at Bombardier's rail unit, but takeover will likely go through

    World News CBC News
    French rail giant Alstom SA is warning that problems at Bombardier's train division may affect negotiations to buy it, but says it still plans to go ahead with the takeover deal. Alstom says that "negative developments" around the train unit's operations and finances revealed in Bombardier's quarterly earnings report last week have prompted the would-be buyer to "take into account the consequences" during upcoming discussions. Source
  • City-dwellers more likely to have suffered dog bites, researchers say

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A new study from the University of Guelph found that dog bites are more common among people who live in urban areas compared to those living in the country. Researchers with the Ontario Veterinary College surveyed more than 2,000 people across different geographic areas to better assess measures related to dog bite prevention. Source
  • Bloodied men detained at Toronto beach menaced people with chainsaws: eyewitness

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Two men arrested in the area of Toronto's Cherry Beach after a fight menaced a number of passersby with running chainsaws before they were captured by police, an eyewitness says. A jogger who wishes to remain anonymous told CTV News Toronto she was running in the area of Cherry Street, between the beach and Regata Road on Sunday morning, when she says she saw a young boy on rollerblades dart off of the path in front of her. Source
  • More than 500 COVID-19 infections in Canada linked to exposures at public places, new data suggests

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- New data suggests that more than 500 COVID-19 infections in Canada have been linked to public venues including stores, bars, restaurants, daycares and schools since the beginning of July as more businesses continue to reopen and restrictions are eased. Source
  • German man severs another's hand off with machete

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- A 22-year-old is under investigation after chopping off another man's hand with a machete at an outdoor recreation area in western Germany, prosecutors said Monday. Prosecutors in Koblenz said the suspect told authorities he had been chopping firewood in a forested area west of the city on Saturday night when he witnessed a car crash. Source
  • Were you at this rave? B.C. health authority says you need to watch for COVID-19 symptoms

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- An event held over the B.C. Day long weekend in Surrey is the latest to be added to Fraser Health's COVID-19 exposure warning list. Billed as a "rave," the event may have been the site of virus exposure on July 31, Aug. Source
  • Quebec reports one new COVID-19 death, 156 new cases

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- There are now 5,696 people who have died of COVID-19 in Quebec, health authorities announced Monday, as confirmed cases in the province reached 60,627. That’s up one from the total of 5,695 deaths reported Sunday; COVID-19 cases in Quebec rose 156 from the total of 60,471 announced a day earlier. Source
  • Sixth Arctic patrol vessel to be named after Second World War navy pilot

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The Royal Canadian Navy announced today its sixth Arctic patrol vessel will be named after Lt. Robert Hampton Gray, a Second World War navy hero. Gray volunteered for the naval reserve in 1940, served as a pilot in the navy's fleet and embarked on HMS Formidable during the war in the Pacific in April 1945. Source
  • Boaters rescued from Lake Erie after vessel runs out of fuel, drifts towards U.S. border

    Canada News CTV News
    LONDON, ONT. -- A pair of boaters had to be rescued from Lake Erie Saturday after the vessel they were travelling in ran out of fuel and began drifting towards the U.S. border, Ontario Provincial Police say. Source