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LETTER OF RESPONSE FROM MINISTER VIC TOEWS (Scroll Down)

MEDIA ADVISORY

FRIDAY, JANUARY 22, 2009

NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC DIALOGUE ON CANADA'S PRISON FARMS
Live Online from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews Riding on Feb 1st

What?
An all party panel discussion on the planned closure, the value of, and ideas for revitalization of the national prison farm program, in Public Safety Minister Vic Toews riding. Manitoba's Rockwood Institution prison farm, in Stoney Mountain, is in serious jeopardy, as are all of the six prison farms across Canada:

  • Rockwood Institution in Stoney Mountain near Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Riverbend Institution near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
  • Bowden Institution in Innisfail near Calgary, Alberta
  • Pittsburgh and Frontenac Institutions in Kingston, Ontario
  • Westmorland Institution in Dorchester, New Brunswick

Who's on the Panel?

  • Niki Ashton, Manitoba NDP MP, Rural and Community Development Critic - confirmed
  • Wayne Easter, PEI Liberal MP and Agriculture Critic - confirmed
  • Mark Holland, Ontario Liberal MP and Public Safety Critic - confirmed
  • Kate Storey, Manitoba Green Party of Canada candidate, Agriculture Critic - confirmed
  • Vic Toews, Manitoba Conservative MP, Minister of Public Safety - not attending

When?
Monday, February 1st, 2010, 1:30pm-3:30pm CST, 12:30-2:30pm MST, 11:30am-1:30pm PST, 2:30-4:30pm EST, 3:30-5:30pm AST, 4:00-6:00pm NST

Where?
Mennonite Heritage Village meeting room in Steinbach, Manitoba, not far from the new Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews constituency office. NOTE: the event will be webcast live online with opportunities for audience questions and feedback from across Canada, turning this into a national democratic dialogue.

For more background on the campaign, which has been ongoing since closure of the six prison farms was announced February, 2009, please see these websites:
www.nfuontario.ca/316/prison-farm-campaign
www.saveourfarms.ca

And this excellent July 2, 2009 Deconstructing Dinner episode www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/070209.htm on the prison farms.

For further information, please contact:

John Hutton, Director
John Howard Society of Manitoba
W: 204-775-1514 ext. 315
C: 204-612-4570
jhutton@johnhoward.mb.ca

Andrew McCann, Director
Urban Agriculture Kingston
W: 613-767-4127
mccann17@yahoo.com


RESPONSE LETTER FROM MINISTER OF PUBLIC SAFETY VIC TOEWS'S OFFICE
January 22, 2010

Dear Mr. McCann:

Thank you for your correspondence of January 22nd, 2010 concerning the closure of the Correctional Service of Canada's six farm operations.

Unfortunately Minister Toews schedule will not permit him to attend your event on February 1st, 2010 in Steinbach , Manitoba .

I would like to assure you that the Government of Canada recognizes the valuable contribution of farming to the Canadian economy. While there is no doubt that work on prison farm operations offers meaningful activity for offenders, the decision to close these operations was based on the need for offender training to be more appropriately aligned with the new vision for transforming federal corrections in Canada . Furthermore, I am pleased to report that the Correctional Service of Canada intends to continue the operation of the Pittsburgh Institution's abattoir in Kingston , Ontario , under an arrangement with an independent operator.

The prison farms are based on an agricultural model from an earlier era. Agriculture has changed. As in many other sources of the economy, capital has replaced labour. As a result, very few inmates ultimately find jobs in the agricultural sector, despite time spent on prison farms and the significant cost invested ($4 million annually) to operate these farms. Holding a job after returning to the community is one of the strongest factors in keeping individuals from re-offending. As such, we would better serve prisoners (and society) by having training focus on skills that lead to actual jobs in the community. Prison farms training does not do that any longer.

Although these farm operations will close, new training opportunities and alternative employment programs will be implemented at these minimum-security institutions. These new programs and activities will provide a broader array of employment opportunities to offenders beyond agriculture and will enhance the ability of offenders to obtain employment upon release. It should also be noted that the land will remain the property of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Thank you again for writing on this issue.

Felicia Wasylowski
Regional Communications Advisor | Conseillère, Communications régionales
Office of the President of the Treasury Board | Cabinet du président du Conseil du Trésor
Ministerial Regional Office / Bureau régional des Ministres
Winnipeg, Canada R3C 0J7


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