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LETTER: A federal prison in Newfoundland and Labrador is long over due

Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s at Quidi Vidi Lake.
Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s at Quidi Vidi Lake. - Joe Gibbons

It is with interest that I find recent comments of the Federal Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale somewhat misleading, and I want to say misinformed, however, knowing his extensive federal public service and experience it is most disheartening and difficult to listen to his rhetoric concerning a federal prison for Newfoundland and Labrador.

I’m sure Goodale would remember when N.L. and the federal government almost had the political will for that prison during a time past. There was, back in the day, much talk of a federal prison being built either Harbour Grace, Deer Lake, Buchans or St. John’s. Some suggested that Bell Island should have been considered as the best place for a maximum Federal prison. It was close but elections changed the stripe of Government and with it, the priorities changed as well, Newfoundland and Labrador lost.

Goodale has been around long enough and knows that Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada without a federal prison. He appears to be playing politics with this issue by his suggestion that there is no pot of money for building one but he would look at a request for funding should we submit a plan.

There has been much work submitted to the Federal government of Canada concerning this issue so his suggesting that the Newfoundland and Labrador government submit another request for funding along with a plan is nothing short of playing politics yet again.

If you could take a moment to read a McLeans article by Nicholas Kohler dated Nov. 10, 2010 (here it is https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/not-exactly-alcatraz-2/), you would realize that this issue has been an ongoing political football for far too many years.

Andrew Parsons, Justice critic of the day had this to say in the article: “Parsons compares imprisoning inmates there to “taking people from the 21st century and putting them into the 19th century.”

The article went on to say:

“Newfoundland is the only province without a federal pen — Her Majesty’s is a provincial institution that takes in federal inmates — and Ottawa has long promised help building a new facility.”

Long promised. I hope Goodale will reflect on this as a federal minister and realize that this is a failed promise and needs to be rectified immediately as the situation appears to be critical and perhaps inhumane.

Political will is all it takes to get this done. Goodale has an opportunity to do it. It will provide support to inmates and their families, federal jobs and spin off employment to the service industry, but can he persuade the prime minister to provide the money?

I know Parsons has that political will and I commend him for taking up the battle yet again but he needs the federal money. It is also noted and unfortunate that it becomes a hot-button issue in the final year before an election and could die on the vine should governments change stripes. It’s like the rabbit chasing a carrot.

So, will this prove to be another failed attempt to secure the federal money to build a federal prison in Newfoundland and Labrador that we deserve to have? Time will tell.

Gordon H. Burt

St. John’s

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