Closure of northwestern youth detention facilities ‘poses problems’ for police, police chief says

·2 min read

THUNDER BAY — The province’s decision to shut down three youth detention facilities in northwestern Ontario is posing some problems for the city’s police service, Thunder Bay’s police chief said Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the ministry of children, community and social services notified William W. Creighton Youth Services two of their facilities in Thunder Bay and one in Kenora would no longer be operational by April 30.

Thunder Bay Police Service Chief Sylvie Hauth said on Tuesday during the Police Services Board meeting she had sent a letter to the ministry outlining the impact the closures pose on the city’s police service including the costs involved in transporting youth to remaining facilities throughout the north.

“My primary focus in terms of operations is basically how we operate day-to-day should we have a youth remanded into custody and there is really no beds here in Thunder Bay, am I looking at for example taking two officers to escort a youth to the closest bed which could be Kenora,” Hauth said.

The sudden decision by the province to close several youth detention facilities in Ontario was because the number of youth being admitted into custody has dropped by 81 per cent since 2004-2005 due to a focus on prevention and education programs.

The announcement of the facilities to be closed in the northwest by April 30 was described as “horrific” by Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

Fiddler said the closures mean youth in custody will be even more displaced and further away from their families and communities.

“Our realities in the north are quite different given that northern Ontario spreads over a large geographical area,” Hauth said in the letter directed to the ministry. “Your closure of facilities and reductions in numbers of available beds pose problems with respect to capacity, logistics as well as time-consuming and costly transportation for the Thunder Bay Police Service.”

Board member and Coun. Kristen Oliver said there were significant concerns with how the closures were rolled out.

“By moving them out of this community and from my understanding the female youth detention centre, the closest one I believe is in Sault Ste. Marie so that is pretty heart-wrenching to me to think this is an OK solution to be moving these youth so far away from their home communities,” Oliver said.

Hauth said she has received acknowledgement from the ministry of her letter and will keep the board informed on her discussions with the province moving forward.

Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source