Protesters rally against proposed Kemptville, Ont. prison
KEMPTVILLE, ONT. -- Just south of Kemptville, on a brisk, wet, Saturday morning, the quiet farmlands are disrupted by the chanting of more than 50 protesters.
The group was gathered at the former farmlands of the Kemptville Agricultural School; now the proposed site for the Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex, a new prison that will house 235 beds with construction expected to begin in 2024.
“Kemptville, in no way, meets the criteria for an appropriate location for a provincial correctional facility,” said Colleen Lynas, a spokesperson for the Coalition Against the Proposed Prison, and one of the speakers at the protest.
“We’re talking about people who are often vulnerable, marginalized, racialized, and a big urban centre like Ottawa has a lot more in the way of resources for those folks than we will ever be able to have in this tiny little community,” she added.
The site is more than 50 kilometres from Ottawa City Hall, and currently isn’t serviced by public transit.
“It’s a better proposition for (inmates) to be in an urban centre that has those supports for them. Kemptville will not do that. Kemptville will be a challenge for the families of these inmates to come this far,” Kirk Albert, a member of the Jail Opposition Group said.
There are other concerns, like the impact on municipal services such as the water treatment facilities, and the potential new demands of the township's volunteer firefighting service.
“I’m concerned that that is going to put us into a position where we have to have a full-time municipal fire department at an average cost of $175,000 per firefighter, all costs in, and that is going to have a huge impact on our taxes,” Bill Gooch, the former mayor of North Grenville, said.
Ontario has previously committed to funding the expansion of municipal services to the site as part of the projected budget.
“We have been sharing information on the servicing requirements with the municipality to ensure that we can appropriately plan for the additional sewage capacity and to mitigate any impacts to municipal infrastructure,” Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Richardson wrote in a letter dated June 10.
Still, residents say they have unanswered questions.
“What are the impacts to our community, what are the costs, what is the tax burdens to our community? Those are fundamentals that we really don’t have answers to,” Albert said.
According to documents the Jail Opposition Group says it obtained through a Freedom of Information Request, at least five sites were considered before the province decided on the Kemptville location.
That site was the largest and had the lowest acquisition cost of the five but was nearly twice as far from the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre compared to the other potential sites.
The province says it considered “numerous sites in Eastern Ontario,” but found that none of the sites met the project requirements.
“The ministry also considered privately-owned sites, however, they were not viable because of market conditions or did not offer adequate proximity and highway access for services such as police, fire, and emergency medical services,” Stephen Warner, a spokesperson for the Solicitor General wrote in an emailed statement.
The province plans to hold a second virtual consultation about the planning and design of the facility on Wednesday, Nov. 17 and residents are hoping it will be a chance to have their voices heard.
“We’re willing to continue to engage with them, but we really do hope they hear us and that they understand why we are asking for the things we’re asking,” Albert said.