A day to celebrate unity, workers, inmates and community members.
Ahead of National Truth and Reconciliation Day on Saturday, those who work inside the facility were treated to food as well as traditional drummers and dancers.
Jail superintendent Angela Pace indicated that this is the second year they have done this.
“It's really about community partners and justice partners coming together to show support for the inmates and the staff at the jail. We can't go inside, so healing from the outside in is where the premise came from," Pace said. "We have the windows open so the inmates can hear us, [the songs], the dancing and as you could hear, they [were happy about it].”
Pace knows about the ongoing challenges that the jail faces in Thunder Bay, but stressed that Wednesday was all about overcoming some of those obstacles.
“Day in and day out, [our] officers do really great work with their inmates, and our inmates are appreciative and able to access programs that they maybe would not have a chance to access. So that makes a huge difference for [them] while they are doing their time here.”
Security manager Alex Bulmer has worked at the jail for 15 years, and has seen the highs and lows inside the aging facility.
“[I have also seen] how [far we have come] for the programming that we're able to offer the individuals that are in custody, and to be able to involve all the community partners and bring everyone together to [make those efforts benefit everyone is rewarding]”, Bulmer said.
Bulmer, a member of the Red Rock Indian Band, and notes that a high proportion of those who come to the jail have an Indigenous background.
“It's really important for these connections to take place, and for people who may understand the culture or the residential school [stories] or all the stuff about it to come together [and gain] a better understanding so that when you're dealing with individuals, you can keep that other stuff in the back of your mind and apply that to your job,” Bulmer noted.
The Thunder Bay Jail was built in 1926 and was added to the city’s Heritage Register in 2009.
Bulmer said the facility can hold as many 150 inmates and there are between 40 and 50 workers on shift at any given time.
Crews are working on a new Thunder Bay Correctional Complex, which will cost $1.2 billion.
The new 345-bed facility is expected to open in late 2026.
Kevin Jeffrey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TBnewswatch.com