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

  • Alberta Liberal party calls for public inquiry into drug deaths in provincial jails

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON - The Alberta Liberals want the government to call a public inquiry into all drug-related deaths of inmates in provincial jails since 2012. Liberal Leader David Swann said there has been a spike in the number of drug-related police investigations at the Edmonton Remand Centre over the past year. Source
  • Trump wrongly blames fraud for loss of popular vote

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump asserted in a private meeting with congressional leaders Monday night that he would have won the popular vote in the 2016 election if 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally hadn't voted. Source
  • 'She gambled away Ryan's life': Judges rules Tamara Lovett guilty of criminal negligence causing death [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Calgary mom Tamara Lovett gambled with her seven-year-old son's life by not getting him proper medical care and lost, a judge ruled Monday in finding her guilty of criminal negligence causing death. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik said Lovett's decision to continue to treat her gravely ill son, Ryan, with "natural" remedies instead of getting him to a doctor crossed the line of criminal behaviour. Source
  • Countries push to save TPP deal after U.S. exits

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY -- Several countries say they hope to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership after President Donald Trump's decision on a U.S. withdrawal from the trade pact cast its future in jeopardy. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged Trump's move was a blow to the multinational agreement. Source
  • Toronto theatre company developing play based on Russell Williams interrogation

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - A Toronto-based theatre company is developing a play based on the intense police interrogation in which convicted sex killer Russell Williams confessed his crimes. The One Little Goat Theatre Company plans to premiere "Smyth/Williams" in March, with an all-female cast that will alternate the roles of the interrogating officer and Williams through the performance. Source
  • China's birthrate rises after one-child policy loosened

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING -- The number of births in China has risen nearly eight per cent in the year after the government loosened its unpopular one-child policy. China's National Health and Family Planning Commission said this week that 17.86 million children were born last year, an increase of 1.31 million from 2015. Source
  • Competitive electronic gaming taking universities by storm

    Canada News CTV News
    Competitive electronic gaming, also known as eSports, has become such a phenomenon that there are now university teams and scholarships dedicated to the alternative sport. Competitive gaming is extremely popular overseas in places like South Korea and Japan, where matches of games like Starcraft can sell out stadiums. Source
  • Former Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi dead at 70

    Canada News CBC News
    Tributes to Andrew Telegdi poured in Monday evening on news the former Kitchener-Waterloo MP and city councillor has died. He was 70. Telegdi served as a Liberal MP from 1993 to 2008, the first four years for the riding of Waterloo, then for the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo for 11 years. Source
  • Ageless Venus Williams advances to Australian Open semis

    World News CBC News
    Venus Williams has become the oldest woman to reach the Australian Open semifinals in the Open era, returning to the last four at Melbourne Park for the first time in 14 years.MEN'S RESULTS: Australian OpenWOMEN'S RESULTS: Australian OpenThe 36-year-old Williams beat No. Source
  • 200,000 litres of crude oil spilled in Saskatchewan

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    STOUGHTON, Sask. — About 200,000 litres of crude oil has been spilled onto agricultural land in southeastern Saskatchewan after a pipeline leak. The spill was detected Friday at a site 10 kilometres north of Stoughton in a low-lying area with a frozen slough. Source