Northwestern Ontario legal experts urge province to review shut down of youth detention centres

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THUNDER BAY — A group of legal experts and the former director of William W. Creighton Youth Services are calling on the province to review their plan to close some residential youth justice centres across Ontario and to meet with Indigenous leaders.

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.

The memo which was sent Wednesday is signed by retired Ontario Superior Court Judge Erwin P. Stach, retired crown attorney Rupert Ross, retired criminal defence lawyer Peter Kirby and Jack Martin, the former director of Creighton Youth Services.

The letter is directed to the premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, and Todd Smith, the minister of children, community and social services, and calls the decision to shut down the facilities “abrupt, uncaring, traumatic and completely at odds with the duty of the Ontario government to work collaboratively with First Nations.”

The group urges the province to take up the requests of the Grand Chiefs for Treaties Three and Nine and to meet with the organizations to review the plans for closures and the transfers of youth in custody.

The announcement of the facilities to shut down 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.

The letter asks the province to explain how the decision to close the centres was made and why staff or the parents of the youth in custody were given no notice of the closures.

Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source